Hi everyone and welcome to our live chat! Tonight's topic will focus on Ebola, specifically as it applies to residents of South Carolina.
Joining us tonight are Dr. Ludwig Lettau, Dr. Olabisi Badmus and Post and Courier health reporter Lauren Sausser.
Dr. Ludwig Lettau arrived in Charleston in 1993, and in 1994 he started his own practice, Lowcountry Infectious Diseases. He serves as director of infectious diseases for Trident Health System and is medical director of Lowcountry Travel medicine. Dr. Lettau also worked for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as the Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Hepatitis Branch.
Dr. Olabisi Badmus, is the lead medical consultant for the Division of Acute Disease Epidemiology at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Under her current position, Dr. Badmus serves as a subject matter expert on the Ebola virus.
Thanks for joining us. I'm Lauren. Looking forward to fielding some of your questions tonight. Ive written a lot about Ebola over the past week, but this is a chance for you all to ask your own questions.
I'm Laura J. Gaton, digital editor for The Post and Courier, and I will be moderating tonight's questions.
I appreciate that our experts are joining us.
Let's start with a question from Lauren.
First question to start things off (something I'm sure is in everyone's mind) how worried should we be?
I worry more about the people in the affected countries in Africa. People here should keep track of events but shouldn't be losing sleep over it.
OK, let's take a question from a reader:
People here should worry more about the flu but I guess with Ebola - it s new and the risk is low but the stakes are high. So its understandable for people to worry
That's a good question, thanks David.
Hi, Lauren, the most important thing to remember is that we have medical infrastructure in place in this country that far exceeds that in resource-poor West African nations. In agreement with Dr. Ludwig, the threat to the US is considered low at this time.
Re EMS workers - I'm not sure- I,ve been more involved with the hospital staff issues
David brings up an interesting point. There has been a lot of talk about preparing emergency room staff, including doctors and nurses, for how to handle patients that present with symptoms that could indicate Ebola. What about EMS/first responders? If you're not aware of any protocols, do you have any advice for those workers?
DHEC is working with First Responders to ensure protocols are in place for the appropriate screening and protective equipment to handle a potential encounter with an Ebola patient.
Lauren: Let's take another question from you.
I would think they are being trained to ask questions regarding travel to west Africa, exposure to Ebola esp in Dallas.
Dr. Lettau, as a former CDC official, how do you think the agency has handled this issue to date?
The CDC tries to make recs on the best available data. When new info becomes available they are pretty quick to update.
Dr. Badmus, what do you think of the response so far?
Infectious diseases in general are not static the bugs mutate, human behviour changes - we're learning new things on a regular basis
Let's take another reader question, this time about how the disease spreads.
That brings up a good point.
There has certainly been an effort to provide as up-to-date guidance and recommendations as additional information has become available. CDC has also been responsive to any and all of our questions and requests as the state's health agency.
Matt asked a good question. I have one too: what are the chances that this virus becomes airborne? Is there any precedent for this?
There is no evidence to support airborne transmission of this virus.
Re the stamp question.My understanding is that the virus doesn't survive for extended periods away from living cells.
@Dr.LudwigLettau: That provides a good answer to another reader question we have waiting in moderation from Mary.
That is consistent with prevailing knowledge of the virus at this time.
So let's say I'm in JFK Airport in New York. What kind of contact should I be sure to avoid? If someone with the illness coughs on me, will I get sick?
I agree. One problem I see is that the "overabundance of caution " with space suits, etc sends the subtle message that it could be airborne
That's the big "what if."
Along the lines of space suits and extreme caution: another reader question.
Re cough - someone in the late stages of Ebola putting out a lot of virus might infect someone else with a cough - but only at close range
Current science suggests that the primary mode of transmission is from direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person or grossly contaminated objects. Those most at risk are people providing prolonged care to Ebola patients with insufficient personal protective equipment or improper use of that equipment.
They should train them to at least ask about travel etc
One of news editors here has a question regarding TSA agents screening passengers at international airports.
I understand from several of my sources that doctors offices, urgent care centers should be and are being trained.