Ebola has apparently surfaced in Boston. The patient was first diagnosed at the Braintree Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates emergency care center, which was briefly closed and placed on quarantine. The patient returned from West Africa in September and tested negative upon returning to the U.S.
Following “Ebola Protocol,” the center notified authorities before cautiously removing the patient from the building and placing him in an ambulance. He was then transported to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. That building was briefly closed upon the patient’s arrival but has since been reopened. The hospital is working closely with the Department of Public Health who will determine the next course of action.
The patient first arrived at the Braintree clinic to refill a prescription and then began to leave. He was intercepted by a clinic worker and prevented from leaving. A variety of ambulances and other emergency vehicles surrounded the clinic located on Grossman Drive. The parking lot was also blocked off by yellow police tape. The driver of the Brewster Ambulance service transporting the patient was seen wearing a mask and hazmat suit. Another person also wearing a hazmat suit was later brought out on a stretcher and placed into the ambulance.
A bystander reported that her husband, who sought treatment for a sore throat, was in the clinic at the same time as the possible Ebola victim. He was seen wearing a facemask when allowed to leave. In all probability, he will have to be quarantined until the probable Ebola patient can be tested. He was told to be prepared for a long process.
Reported symptoms of people stricken with the Ebola virus include fever, overall weakness, stomach pain accompanied with vomiting, headaches, diarrhea and inexplicable bleeding. Once exposed, these symptoms do not present themselves for two to 21 days. The average, however, is between 8 to 10 days. Without the availability of viable medication, recovery is dependent on the patient’s own immune system and the clinical care provided. While the survival rate is about 50 percent, patients that do recover will build up an immunity to the virus for about ten years.
At greatest risk of contracting the virus are caregivers and close family and friends of those afflicted. They are more apt to contact the bodily fluids of afflicted patients. While the disease can also be contracted through contact with wild animals, that is not the reason for the individuals that have been diagnosed stateside. However, contaminated medical equipment such as syringes, sheets, clothing or other medical equipment can also be a source of transmission.
There are environmental and infection controls in place for hospitals housing Ebola infected patients. Directives stipulate the use of protective gear as well as the proper disposal of such gear and bedding the patient has contacted. Proper disinfectant for non-enveloped type viruses, like Ebola, must be used.
If testing for Ebola comes back positive, the Boston area will be the second location where a confirmed case has been identified in the U.S. It raises the urgency to produce the ZMapp medicinal cure still being tested. It will also speed up the screening of individuals entering this country from West Africa.
By Hans Benes