In countries with strong health systems, the risk of becoming infected with the Ebola virus is relatively low. You can only get Ebola through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal, like blood or vomit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Ebola can only spread to others after symptoms begin. Health care workers in close contact with patients and contaminated needles or other equipment are at highest risk of becoming infected with the virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 450 health care workers, of which most are from West Africa, have been infected with the Ebola virus and 244 have died.
In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak is a serious public health emergency. The disease has hit hardest in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. These countries even lack basic necessities such as gloves, gowns, masks and other supplies that protect health care workers. Right now, the lack of resources and poor infection control measures make it difficult to combat the virus in West Africa.
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is monitoring the Ebola situation in West Africa. They are working with the WHO, governments, nurse experts, Médecin Sans Frontières and other organizations to ensure the safety of health care professionals working in high risk areas.
ICN urges that everyone involved in hands-on patient care have appropriate education and training on the Ebola virus – its transmission, treatment, prevention and control. They urge that everyone in close contact with Ebola patients have protective equipment and health supplies as well as psychological support. With representatives in West Africa, ICN is establishing guidelines to ensure better patient care in a safe and protected environment. To learn more on the Ebola virus, you can read here.