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Managing Ebola, Enterovirus and Other Infectious Diseases

Posted on Mon, Oct 20, 2014
Managing Ebola, Enterovirus and Other Infectious Diseases

By Dr. Adam Corley

Given all of the news about Ebola and enterovirus recently, it is only natural and appropriate that there is a great deal of media attention focused on infectious diseases.  Like the rest of the world, I’m interested in and following along with both of these recent stories.  However, it is important to realize that there are other common viruses that we deal with routinely that have the potential to affect and even kill many more people than Ebola and enterovirus combined.
 
Between five and 20% of all Americans will come down with seasonal influenza (the flu) every year according to the CDC.  Though some flu seasons are worse than others, thousands of people die every year from influenza.  During the period from 1976 to 2006, the CDC recorded between 3000 and 49000 deaths annually.
 
There are simple things that we can all do to protect ourselves and our communities from routine illnesses as well as those that are more exotic, frightening, and sensational. Here are some of my top recommendations.

  • Wash your hands. Routine hand washing can dramatically reduce the spread of many viruses and bacteria that cause disease, particularly respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases. To do a proper hand wash, you should wet, lather, rinse, scrub, and dry your hands. The scrub portion should last at least 20 seconds.  Wash frequently, particularly before preparing food or eating, after using the bathroom, and when you’ve been around someone who is sick.
  • Get the flu vaccine. Yearly vaccination is one of the best ways to protect yourself from contracting influenza.  If you have questions about which flu vaccine is right for you, talk with your doctor.
  • Stay home. I love to surround myself with people who have a good work ethic. I have missed very few days of work in my life.  That said, if you are sick with a viral-type illness, stay home.  Don’t go to work, school, or other public places where you might spread your illness to others.  If you aren’t sure whether you illness is likely to be contagious, visit your doctor.
  • Cover your cough. Many respiratory illnesses are spread by droplets released when you sneeze or cough.  When you cough or sneeze, do so into the bend in your elbow, into a tissue, or into your hand. Wash your hands frequently in general and especially when you are sick.
  • Have a primary care doctor. This is good general advice but it is particularly important during cold and flu season. You need to have an established relationship with a primary care doctor in advance of getting sick.  When you feel badly, you can schedule an appointment with a doctor who knows you, your medical history, and can give you the personalized attention that you need when you’re sick.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Corley, MD, FAAEM, FACEP, is a Regional Medical Director for EmCare and practices at Brazosport Regional Health Center in Houston, TX. 

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