With Ebola so much in the news lately, all health care professionals need to be aware of the procedures and protocols for ensuring a safe environment for both staff and patients. As reported in the ADA News, the ADA contacted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in early September in search of guidance for dental professionals.
The CDC reports, “We are really trying to help health care workers understand the principles they need to follow and why, and how to do them."
According to the CDC, there is no risk of transmission of Ebola from asymptomatic infected patients. The virus is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with blood and body fluids (including saliva) of a person who is sick with Ebola, or with sharps that have been contaminated with the virus. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food.
Dental providers can reduce the risk of infection by following standard infection control procedures as described in the CDC’s Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health Care Settings. Prepare yourself and your staff:
The CDC has been running a Health Alert Network (HAN) that health care workers and individuals can subscribe to for notifications and advice on diseases.
Obtain patient travel history
In addition to the routine questions asked by dental professionals, the CDC says health care workers should get a patient’s travel history. Consider the possibility of Ebola if a patient has recently visited Ebola-affect countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, or Sierra Leone) and exhibits symptoms of Ebola.
PPE should consist of gloves, gown, eye protection (goggles or face shield), and a mask. An Ebola-specific checklist for health care providers is posted on the CDC’s website.
Signs and symptoms of Ebola include:
- Fever (greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
ADA News - September, CDC Ebola Virus Guidance
Health Alert Network (HAN)
CDC Recommended Infection Control Practices for Dentistry
CDC Health Care Provider Preparedness Checklist for Ebola
Standard universal precautions should be used on all patients as a matter of routine. If Ebola is suspected, contact your state health department.