Ebola Virus and Dentistry

The Ebola Epidemic: A Concern for Dentistry?

The recent Ebola epidemic has the entire world on high alert. Although the majority of the 8,400 reported cases have been contained to West Africa, the Ebola virus has already made its way into the United States. Following the death of Thomas Eric Duncan (the first travel-related Ebola case in the U.S.), the CDC confirmed Sunday that a nurse who treated Duncan at a Texas hospital has contracted Ebola. Authorities presume that the infection may be a result of a “breach” of infection control protocol.

Since healthcare workers who come in contact with infected patients have the highest risk of contracting Ebola, now is the time to emphasize the importance of proper infection control procedures with your team.

Precautionary Checklist

To keep your staff and patients safe, consider the following precautions:

  • Monitor the Ebola situation online. Utilize the resources available on the CDC website.
  • Assess and ensure availability of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand hygiene supplies.
  • Review facility infection control policies.
  • Review environmental cleaning procedures.
  • Be on the lookout for patients with fever or symptoms of Ebola who have traveled from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone in the past 21 days.
  • Recognize a case of Ebola and be prepared to use appropriate infection control measures.
  • Begin education and refresher training for healthcare providers on Ebola virus disease signs and symptoms, diagnosis, triage procedures, employee sick leave policies, how and to whom Ebola cases should be reported and procedures to take following unprotected exposures.
  • Avoid contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected patient.
  • Ensure laboratories review procedures for appropriate specimen collection, transport and testing of specimens from patients who may be infected with Ebola virus.

Other Facts About the Ebola Virus

According to the CDC, a person infected with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear. Signs and symptoms of Ebola include fever (greater than 101.5°F) and severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain or unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms can appear from 2 to 21 days after exposure. After 21 days, if an exposed person does not develop symptoms, they will not become sick with Ebola.

The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with blood and bodily fluids (e.g., urine, feces, saliva, vomit and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola, or with objects (e.g., needles) that have been contaminated with the virus. Ebola is NOT spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food.