PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Welcome to our social media TV news chat, where we’ve taken your questions about Ebola.
On Oct. 15, we took your inquiries to lung surgeon Dr. Robert Keenan, who is leading the Ebola efforts at the Allegheny Health Network.
Meloney Reagle asks on Facebook: “Why are they saying it is not easily transmitted when they have so many in quarantine?”
Dr. Keenan says it’s a precaution, and that it is not easily transmitted.
“We want to have a period of time where someone is isolated or restricted in their movements until we’ve passed the point at which an infection should have arisen. So for Ebola, it’s 21 days. In many cases, the infection will show up as an obvious infection sooner than that, maybe eight or 10 days. By 21 days, if you’ve shown no signs of Ebola, you are not infected,” says Dr. Keenan. “The fact that so many have had contact with that individual, and to my knowledge, none of them have yet shown any signs is a testament to the fact that it really does take a lot to transmit this disease. It’s likely that the ability for someone to be infectious as an Ebola patient grows, as the infection progresses.”
HLandPitt tweets, “Flying to New Orleans in 10 days; what concerns should I have? Any precautions? How about when I return?”
“Casual contact is not sufficient to cause the disease to happen. There’s no known information that Ebola can be transmitted by a sneeze or a cough or in any other kind of airborne way,” says Dr. Keenan. “On a domestic flight, in this country, where you’re going to a wonderful city where, right now, there’s no known cases of Ebola, have a good time and don’t worry about it.”
Jimmy Knable tweets, “Can it be transmitted sexually?”
“Yes,” says Dr. Keenan. “The Ebola virus can remain viable in semen for several months after the infection has presumably passed. So there are guidelines against sexual contact for a period of several months after you’ve recovered from Ebola.”
On Oct. 16, UPMC Presby Emergency Department Director Dr. Donald Yealy, and lung surgeon Dr. Robert Keenan, who is leading the Ebola efforts at the Allegheny Health Network, took your questions.
Jodie Marie asks on Facebook about a nurse in protective gear she saw in news videos, “Her gloved hand clearly touches her hair. Would this not leave her exposed to the disease?”
So far, two nurses who took care of the man who died of Ebola in Texas have become infected.
“I can’t speak specifically to whether it was part of putting the equipment on, inappropriate equipment, taking equipment off. Those are the key areas,” says Dr. Yealy. “This is what I chose to do, and I see lots of people who could have illnesses that I could pick up. What I take from that is I have to be very careful about my own personal protection.”
Darla Bernot tweets, “How are we going to stop the spread of this pandemic?”
“It is really a disease of West Africa right now. Yes, there are isolated cases in Europe, and now here in the States, but that’s it. To call it a pandemic, I think, is overstating the case,” says Dr. Keenan.
Bright Future Farm asks on Facebook: “Why are we allowing any international flights into this country right now?”
“We cannot protect ourselves 100 percent unless you shut down all international travel, including by ship,” says Dr. Keenan. “The situation is not a lot different from ones we’ve faced in the past, including the SARS epidemic, avian flu, and we’ve overcome every one of them.”
On Friday, we are joined by Dr. Andrew Sahud, the head of infectious diseases at Allegheny General Hospital.
On Facebook, Kristien Demuth asks, “Can you get this from a toilet?”
The virus can stay infectious on surfaces for a period of time.
“If it dries, for a few hours. If it’s still wet, potentially up to several days,” says Dr. Sahud.
@LolaMarie106 tweets, “Flying to Germany via Atlanta on the 25th. Need I worry?”
“The risk with travel, being on a plane like that, unless you’re right adjacent to somebody and had direct contact with them and they were symptomatic is still very, very low,” Dr. Sahud reassures.
Donna Carretta asks on Facebook about postponing a trip.
“Our 22-year-old daughter was scheduled to travel to Senegal and Gambia for a college engineering project.”
Dr. Sahud urges being informed and cautious.
“There really hasn’t been much of a problem outside of these three countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea,” he says, “It would give me pause if I had to travel anywhere in Africa right now.”
@George49711748 tweets, “If there’s 300 new cases in the next month or two, are the United States equipped to handle them without incident?”
The nurses who became infected have been taken to the National Institutes of Health and the CDC.
“If we have one or two more people with infection, they’d probably be sent to one of these facilities. If it got to a point where it was higher than that, we’d need to be able to manage people on the local level, which I think can be done,” Dr. Sahud says.
Danielle M Lightman asks on Facebook, “Could they get a cure for it?”
“There are no cures today. There are several experimental drugs that are in the earliest phases of being tested,” says Dr. Sahud.
Thanks for all of your great questions about Ebola. Couldn’t answer all on air, but will try to answer as many as I can here.
All week long, I’ve been discussing your questions with my panel of medical experts. Helping with the answers are…
Q: from Bright Future Farm “Is this virus airborne?”
A: Dr. Keenan – “Airborne would mean something happened to create an aerosol out of a bodily fluid.”
A: Dr. Keenan – “i.e. bronchoscopy (going down airway and stirring things up), aerosolization treatment (brings up a lot of phlegm).
A: Dr. Sahud – “We don’t regard this as an airborne pathogen, something that remains suspended in the air for hours.”
Q: Are the emergency departments overrun with people worried they have Ebola?
A: Dr. Yealy – “I’m not sure I would describe it as a panic yet, and I wouldn’t describe it as a deluge.”
A: Dr. Keenan – “We have had probably 150 or more scares of patients or institutions that thought had a patient with Ebola…”
A: Dr. Keenan – “…none of the rest of them [besides the diagnosed nurses] have panned out.”
Q: Did the hospital in Texas expose more staff than necessary because of the level of care the Ebola patient required.
A: Dr. Yealy – “A sick person like that who would require intensive care would easily have 50-60-70 people.”
Q: From @linkhauer “This Hospital has lost control..”
Q: To MT @linkhauer, should Ebola patients be cared for in community hospitals? at specialized centers?
A: Dr. Sahud – “It’s a far more involved process to handle a patient like this than I think was originally perceived.”
A: Dr. Yealy – “Emory and Nebraska had people who clearly had Ebola and were transported for very specific reasons.”
A: Dr. Yealy – “I’m not surprised that the first site would have challenges that others could learn from.”
A: Dr. Biggs – “There’s some thought if you have a true positive Ebola patient, should they be treated at a tertiary care facility? I think that’s still in flux.”
A: Dr. Biggs – “We [community hospitals] have to be able to be the first line responders.”
A: Dr. Biggs – “We have personal protective equipment that’s stored up…we have processes in place in all aspects of the hospitals.”
Q: From @lisaromey “Sending ppl to W.Africa sounds counter-productive. Why expose more ppl who will then travel home and spread it?”
A: Dr. Sahud has confidence the military personnel assisting in building health care facilities in W. Africa will be supervised safely.
A: Dr. Sahud points out infected Americans removed from W. Africa were removed from the area in a careful and coordinated way.
Q: From @lisaromey “I hear this all started bc these ppl eat fruit bats. Is that true?
A: Dr. Sahud – “In the rural areas of the jungle of Africa, people eat bushmeat (bats, monkey).”
A: Dr. Sahud – “Bats are considered to be a high reservoir for Ebola…probably where the transition bt animal to person took place.”
Q: From @ChunkLover “Can pets get Ebola? Could I get Ebola from my pet?”
A: Dr. Sahud – “Animals, and mammals, particularly, can acquire Ebola.”
A: Dr. Sahud – “The transmission would be the same for a human being.”
A: Dr. Sahud – “You have to have symptoms, and you have to have bodily fluids transmitted to another animal. So very low risk in that regard.”
A: Dr. Sahud – “If there’s any question, [your pet] should probably be observed and quarantined in the same way.”
Q: If you survive Ebola, are you then immune?
A: Dr. Sahud – “You have anitbodies, per the CDC, that protect you for up to 10 years, and there isn’t knowledge as to whether this protects you from other strains of Ebola.”
Q: What is the treatment involving blood from a survivor?
A: Dr. Keenan – “They [survivors] have antibodies to the virus.”
A: Dr. Keenan – “If you can pass those antibodies on to someone who has the infection, maybe those antibodies will in fact help.”
Q: Could there be a vaccine?
A: Dr. Keenan – “This is not a virus that easily mututes…makes it more promising to be able to develop a vaccine.”
Q: from @2vidguy “Should I be more worried about Ebola or the flu?”
A: Dr. Sahud – “We know we will routinely see large volumes of influenza patients, so that would certainly be much higher on my list of concerns.”
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