Ebola Overload – Don’t Fear the Gym

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October 19, 2014

When I was at the gym this week, I started wondering about how I would adjust my routine if we start to see more cases of Ebola. Having heard about the first reported case of the flu in Maryland this season, I realized that the gym could become a frightening place – and you know I don’t want you to be fearful of the gym! We’re all familiar with being in a crowded movie theater during flu season and hearing everyone coughing all around us. It doesn’t take much imagination how this can evolve to ‘Fearbola’ as mentioned in the Washington Post today.

First off, to decrease the chance of having a fever in the next few months and worrying whether it’s Ebola, please get your flu shot — Now! And ask those around you to do the same. Do the usual frequent hand washing thing, maybe limit kissing and hand shakes to your few closest friends 😉 and avoid being around others if you have the flu. If we can limit the number of patients going to doctors offices and emergency rooms for flu-like symptoms – fever, chills, body aches, fatigue – everyone will be better off.

Here’s a link to an article from a British newspaper with good practical information about Ebola. It was sent to us by one of our doctors who is involved in public health. She feels this article contains reliable information. Regarding my concern, it says, “…sweat, anyway, is probably not a source of large amounts of virus – in fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says whole live virus has never been isolated from sweat.” The CDC site does list sweat as one of the possible body fluids to contain Ebola, so there is some conflicting information, but it doesn’t say specifically that LIVE virus has been found.

So the bottom line about me and the gym – I’ll be there! I might consider bringing my own mat, but that’s doubtful unless the situation changes.  

The CDC does note that usual sanitizers that work for more resistant viruses like norovirus, rotavirus, adeno or polio will work on Ebola. Ebola virus is actually easier to kill than these other viruses, but as a precaution, they are recommending that health facilities use the stronger agents and dispose of anything like linens and containers that are porous rather than trying to clean them. They would then be transported as hazardous materials.

And this from the CDC site about persistence of live Ebola virus, given normal sanitizing routines: “… persistence of Ebola virus in the patient care environment would be short – with 24 hours considered a cautious upper limit.”  There were several missteps in the diagnosis and initial treatment, as you’ve heard about over and over… in the care of the first Ebola infection diagnosed in the U.S. and so there are many reasons the Dallas hospital where he was treated has turned into a ‘ghost town’ according to ABC News.  But we need to look at the risk of spread in a rational manner.

All the contacts of Mr. Duncan, the deceased Ebola patient in Texas who spent time at home just prior to his hospitalization, have passed their 21 day incubation period and none has become ill. Realistically, the incubation period is about 7-10 days, but people are monitored for 21 days out of an abundance of caution. This is reassuring to me, confirming what we have been told about the virus not spreading easily by casual contact. We hope that the nurses who took care of him during his severe illness and have tested positive will do well over the next few weeks.

So do your part to decrease panic over the next few months – get your flu shot, take good care of yourself, stay well, and urge your friends and colleagues to stay home when they are ill. Limiting the flu will help keep febrile people out of the doctors offices, walk-in clinics and emergency rooms and limit the Ebola panic, leaving health care resources at these sites available for those who need them.