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Oregon state public health officials say they are ready to respond in the unlikely event a person with an Ebola infection arrives in Oregon. But they emphasize the risk of exposure remains low.
To help public health officials monitor for illness and keep it contained, they encourage people to talk to their doctors if they have recently travelled to West Africa.
Katrina Hedberg, M.D., is state health officer at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. “We know that Ebola is a very serious illness that is an epidemic in West Africa,” Hedberg said Wednesday. “It can often be deadly, but it’s not highly communicable. It’s spread from person to person, usually from direct contact with body fluids. It’s not airborne.”
Hedberg and Genevieve Buser, M.D., a physician in the Public Health Division’s Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section, attended a press briefing at the Portland State Office Building to provide an update on Oregon’s response to the international Ebola situation. The briefing occurred a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it had confirmed the first Ebola case diagnosed within the United States – a man who was visiting family in Texas.
Hedberg said she is not surprised the U.S.A. has seen its first case of Ebola.
“There’s a fair amount of travel that happens between the United States and other countries in the world,” Hedberg said. “We assume that the risk of this in Oregon is very low, but it wouldn’t be unheard of.”
Hedberg and Buser said Ebola is more difficult to spread than diseases that can be passed through the air, such as measles and tuberculosis. Ebola is only transmitted through direct contact with body fluids of an ill, infected person who has symptoms, by touching either the ill person or a surface recently contaminated by his or her bodily fluids, such as through sneezing.
Hedberg says the state and local health departments remain vigilant, and are working closely with the CDC to keep hospitals, and all other parts of the health system, updated on developments in West Africa, and informed on how to identify, test and respond to a human case in Oregon.