SAN DIEGO–Despite widespread coverage of the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States, both national and local public health officials from the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) say the country is not at risk for an epidemic.

“While Ebola can be scary to people, the local risk for Ebola has not changed. We have a global community, and the possibility of someone traveling from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone and flying back home here is much like the first case in Dallas,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The good news is that we have a strong health care system that is more prepared than the countries in Africa where the outbreak is occurring, so any case in the U.S. is likely to be an isolated incident.”

Wooten said the County is working with local medical providers to be on the lookout for Ebola.

“We have alerted and will continue to alert the local medical community to be observant for symptoms and to ask anyone with any of those symptoms about their recent travel history,” Wooten said. “We have specific processes in place if a local hospital or physician identifies a patient they think may have Ebola.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of Ebola include a fever over 101.5 degrees, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure, but the average is 8 to 10 days. Ebola can be spread to others only after symptoms have appeared.

Ebola is not spread through casual contact. It is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person or exposure to objects such as needles that have been contaminated.

“If a case of Ebola were to happen locally, the County of San Diego has well-trained staff that would investigate and locate any recent contacts of the person,” said Wooten. “We would need to find everyone who had direct contact with the person when they were showing symptoms and isolate these contacts if they were also showing symptoms to stop the spread of the disease.”

Anyone who came in contact with an infected patient would be monitored for 21 days for any signs of the Ebola virus.

The CDC reports that in the past decade, the United States has had five imported cases of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever diseases similar to Ebola and none have resulted in any transmissions within the U.S.

The CDC has been anticipating and preparing for a case of Ebola in the United States by:

  • Enhancing surveillance and laboratory testing capacity in states to detect cases
  • Developing guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations
  • Providing recommendations for healthcare infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread
  • Providing guidance for flight crews, Emergency Medical Services units at airports, and Customs and Border Protection officers about reporting ill travelers to CDC
  • Disseminating up-to-date information to the general public, international travelers, and public health partners

More information is available at www.cdc.gov/ebola.