Is Webster County prepared to handle the West African Ebola outbreak?
The answer is yes.
The Webster County Health Department has been training in response to the outbreak of the disease, which began in Guinea in February.
"We're doing our best to prepare. In case it does happen, it's not something that will come out of the blue," Kristine Condon, WCHD emergency preparedness coordinator, said. "We're doing our research, becoming educated on the virus. We are preparing ourself, just in case, but there is very little risk."
It is unlikely the virus will reach Fort Dodge, Condon said. So far, there have been no cases reported in the United States.
"The risk is very low right now," she said. "It's very low in the United States in general, because we're being very precautious of people coming into the United States from the affected area, making sure if they start showing any signs of symptoms they get treatment right away."
The virus's symptoms include headache, fever, joint and muscle aches, weakness, loss of appetite and abnormal bleeding.
"It's spread through direct contact with bodily fluids or blood, so it's not airborne. You can't get it from the water," Condon said. "If someone is infected, but is not showing symptoms, they are not contagious, so you can't get it through that."
She added, "Unless you or someone you know has traveled to the affected areas recently, there is no need to worry, due to it being spread by direct contact with bodily fluids."
The Webster County Health Department has been in contact with both the Iowa Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control.
"They want to make sure that everyone knows about the virus and what to do," Condon said. "Everyone is really ready for it, just in case. Right now, the main concern is in Africa. The other concern is people coming back into the United States from Africa, or international people coming from Africa."
If you know someone who has returned from the affected countries and is showing symptoms, it is important to seek care for them right away.
"Obviously, call your doctor, call the public health department. One of the two," Condon said. "Treatment is mainly supportive treatment. Lots of fluids, monitoring heart pressure and oxygen level. There is no specific treatment for it, but with the supportive care we have here in the United States it is very treatable."
For more information, contact Webster County Health Department at 573-4107, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit its offices at 723 1st Ave. S., Fort Dodge.