Ebola: Facts and Figures for Flyers, an EMS Perspective

Ebola seems to be the scary of the century these last few days, as millions of citizens worry about the spread of the decease via air travel, airports and more.

As many of you know, I volunteer my time as an Emergency Medical Technician – something that I enjoy doing, giving back to the community, and assisting others in their time of need.

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Recently, the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services put out an email to EMS providers concerning the virus. I think it’s beneficial for the traveling public to understand the midst from public health officials. It’s often interesting to understand the behind the scenes thoughts of how trained responders (in this case, EMS) are going to re-act, which will therefore dictate how the public may react.


October 15, 2014

Dear Virginia EMS Provider,

Due to recent news regarding Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), we would like to provide you with an update. Our top priorities at the Office of EMS (OEMS) are the safety of all EMS providers and patients, and keeping our providers well-informed. We continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance and recommend their website for more extensive information www.cdc.gov/.

In order to make sure that you get the most up-to-date and EMS-specific information related to EVD, the OEMS has created an Ebola webpage, which will be dedicated to posting important updates that will help to protect you and your patient. You can find that information at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/OEMS/EO/Ebola.htm. For additional information for Virginia healthcare providers and facilities, visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/ebola/.

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As you consider your EMS response in the community, please remember these points:

  • Ebola is not known to spread through casual contact or the air.
  • The disease is not communicable until the patient begins exhibiting signs and symptoms of the illness, i.e., high fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and/or unexplained hemorrhaging/bruising.
  • Symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 – 21 days after exposure, with an average of 8 -21 days.
  • Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and practices are the key to protecting healthcare workers and EMS providers
  • Gathering good patient information is also a vital way of protecting EMS providers. Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) centers are encouraged to ask questions and get answers to specific questions, and provide them to the EMS providers before they are on the scene. EMS providers should follow-up on this information.
    – Ebola algorithm for evaluating a returned traveler http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/ebola-algorithm.pdf.
    – Checklist for patients being evaluated for EVD in the United States http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/checklist-patients-evaluated-us-evd.pdf.
  • If a patient is exhibiting signs or symptoms, and has traveled to or had contact with, a person who has traveled to or come from, a country where an Ebola outbreak is occurring but refuses transport, providers should report patient information to their local health department for follow-up. Use the daytime health department phone numbers Monday – Friday and after-hours health department phone number: [phone number removed for security reasons]. Ask for the Epi investigator on call.

We will be actively adding information to our webpage, so please check it frequently. You will also be able to find important updates on our Virginia EMS Facebook and Twitter pages.

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If you have any questions that are not covered here, please email [name removed for security reasons]. For EMS-specific questions, please email [name removed for security reasons].

Office of Emergency Medical Services
Virginia Department of Health

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