Ebola: The Doc Smitty’s latest thoughts
I spent the day yesterday doing some quiet, serious thinking about Ebola, contacts, infection spread etc. Because it has been healthcare workers involved, it hit close to home and required me to do spend some time gathering my thoughts about the infection.
I recognize that there are many different opinions and stories out there. I want to simply be transparent with you about my thoughts as a physician who spends a lot of time communicating with patients via social media and other platforms.
I know with the spread of the infection in the United States there are a lot of concerned people. I think it raises the level of concern for all of us, so I completely understand that. After thinking, I continue to feel strongly that the risk of Ebola spreading to the general population is still extremely low based on the following thoughts:
- Thomas Eric Duncan was home for 2-3 days with Ebola. There were many contacts during that time; some considered "high" and some considered "low" risk. Even during that time when he was ill, none of these contacts contracted the virus despite some of them undoubtedly providing pretty intimate care for him. At this point he was sick, but apparently not as sick as he became during his time in the hospital.
- The 2 secondary cases both occurred in nurses who were actively, involved in very close care of Mr. Duncan when he was at his sickest. We know that Ebola is not contagious until people are showing symptoms and we know that they become more contagious as they get sicker.
- We will have to wait and see as more details come out, but there are many reports that the staff at the hospital were not following the guidelines for infection containment that we know are effective at containing spread, perhaps through no fault of their own. Again, I want to hear the full story on this before I place judgment. These issues tend to be revealed over time.
- So far, the only diagnosed Ebola cases in the United States have either been people who were in affected areas and now 2 people with known, direct exposure to those people. I believe that if the transmission pattern for Ebola had changed, we would have seen many, many more cases at this point.
Keep these things in mind as you read the information that comes across during the next few days. You should make your own decisions about how to protect your family, but these thoughts are based on the information we have on hand.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.