Health

8 things to learn about Ebola from Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s live Facebook chat

July 31, 2014 at 10:04 AM ET

The worst Ebola outbreak in history has started to hit home for Americans.

Two U.S. aid workers have been infected with the virus. An American citizen who had been living in Liberia was infected with the virus and died. On Wednesday, an Ebola scare briefly closed an emergency room in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But should the average American worry? What can ordinary people do? Dr. Nancy Snyderman came to the Orange room to answer all your questions in a live chat on TODAY's Facebook page.

Video: NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman is in the Orange Room, answering your questions about the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and whether the virus could spread to the United States.

1. It could come here – but that doesn’t mean you should worry.

Q. Jennifer Slesnick Schaeffer: Do you think it will hit the US? If so are we prepared?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: It is unlikely and if a case of Ebola arrived in the U.S. we have a sophisticated healthcare system to isolate the patient and shut down further spread. These outbreaks usually burn out on their own. … This is not a casually transmitted illness and you cannot get it from an airline seat, tray or armrest. 

2. Casual contact isn’t a problem.

Q. Yvonne Knight: What is it and how do we protect ourselves

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: Ebola is a virus that was first diagnosed in 1976 in the Congo and the Sudan. It is named after the river where it was first identified. There are now four identified strains of the disease. Protect yourself? This is not a casually transmitted virus. You must come into contact with bodily fluids. The best advice is to follow standard infection control procedures. 

3. Aid workers will be monitoring themselves as they come home.

Q. Matthew Hamilton: Wouldn't it be prudent to quarantine aid workers returning from West Africa despite the low risk to the general public?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: Interestingly, aid workers probably know more about this disease than most American doctors. According to Dr. Tony Fauci at the NIH, health workers with self-monitor and report any fever, aches, nausea or vomiting to their doctor. Only then would that patient be isolated.

4. There are unanswered questions about the two infected Americans.

Q. Linda Leaf: If has to be spread via actual contact, vomit body fluids and those two doctors became ill with it, that were all gowned up including masks, how did they get infected?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: This is one of the mysteries. The assumption is that the healthcare workers were in harrowing conditions for very long hours and in some moment, human error allowed transmission of the virus. This just underscores how dangerous this virus is and the bravery of those on the front lines.

5. There’s no good treatment for Ebola.

Q. Samantha Kuehn: What kind of treatment is used to fight the virus?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: Treatment is supportive, IV fluids and medication to keep the fever down. The goal is to keep the kidneys functioning and let the body fight the virus. Antibiotics and antivirals do not work. … Read more about vaccines in the pipelines here: http://www.nbcnews.com/.../no-market-scientists-struggle...

6. Don’t cancel your trip.

Q. Michele Grabusnik: Should the average citizen be concerned? Are there going to be any travel bans?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: As of yesterday the CDC issued no travel bans to any country in Africa. They did however, alert healthcare workers about taking necessary precautions. The average citizen should not be concerned.

Q. Pamela Whitt: Would u recommend travel to Africa right now?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: You shouldn't be fearful to travel to Africa right now. Most countries are not facing Ebola outbreaks.

Q. Cindy Oncay Rinehimer: We are planning a trip of lifetime to South Africa and Victoria Falls in October - should we concerned about the Ebola scare?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: I have been there several times. You are not at risk. Enjoy yourselves.

7. Symptoms are severe and deadly, and surface within a few weeks.

Q. Elaine Coelho Enos Jannerelli: What are the first symptoms?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: First symptoms are vague - headache, fever, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting. But Ebola must be diagnosed at this stage before the kidneys shut down and the body starts to hemorrhage.

Q. Suzi Forbes: What % of people who get the disease survive?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: The death rate can be as high as 90 percent but in this outbreak, the death rate is hovering around 60 percent. 

Q. Sandy Wagner Snyder: My friend's granddaughter was in Liberia within the last two months on a humanitarian mission with a church. She spent a lot of time with the kids there. She has been back in the country for a month. Is she safe from contracting it??

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: Yes, if a person doesn't show symptoms within 21 days, a person is considered safe.

8. African officials are working to contain it, but they need help.

Q. Rosemary Swinehart: What steps are being taken in Africa to contain the virus and possibly vaccinate against it ?

A. Dr. Nancy Snyderman: Just this morning Sierra Leone issued a state of public emergency and is quarantining all epicenters of the disease. Countries need supplies, more medical personnel and more education. There is a lot of fear among the communities of local aid workers. Anyone experiencing the symptoms should go to a hospital. 

TOP