Getting flu more likely than Ebola, epidemiologist says

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The virus is in Texas, but contracting it is unlikely.

By Cynthia M. Herrera

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

A local health expert, who has seen Ebola cases firsthand in Africa, said the virus will eventually hit San Antonio, but residents should not panic because they are far more vulnerable to the flu.

Dr. Anil T. Mangla, assistant director of health at the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, said the flu is more contagious.

However, the health district has kept Ebola on its radar since August, when officials began meeting once a week about the virus. This month the district stepped up those meetings to twice weekly, he said.

The virus will arrive in San Antonio sooner or later, Mangla said.

Three Ebola cases were identified in Dallas – an infected Liberian man died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, and two of the nurses who attended him were diagnosed last week, according to the Associated Press.

There are three important things to know about Ebola, said Mangla, who oversees the district’s communicable diseases division and has worked in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho.

The first thing to remember is it’s not airborne.

Second, it is only infectious when a person has become symptomatic. Those infected with the virus don’t start to show symptoms until anywhere from two to 21 days. The average, however, is 10 days, Mangla said.

Symptoms include fever above 101.5 degrees, severe headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most important, to contract Ebola, one has to have direct contact with bodily fluid — including blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, feces or semen — through an open wound or mucous membrane. The virus can survive outside the body, such as on doorknobs or countertops, for several hours, according to the CDC.

Mangla said guidelines on Ebola have been developed and distributed among local health care systems, the San Antonio Fire Department and EMS.

The second Dallas nurse was recently transferred to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, which has treated other patients with Ebola, according to CNN.

Mangla, who has worked in Atlanta, said that’s “a great idea.”

“We need to do whatever is best to save this patient,” he said.

For now, San Antonians don’t need to take special precautions unless they have visited Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone or Nigeria in the past three weeks and feel ill, the health district’s website said.

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