Ebola Virus Disease: What Employers Can Do

January 09, 2020

What Employers Can Do About Ebola

Employers can and should play an important role in an outbreak by

  • Repeatedly communicating to employees about risk factors and preventive measures to reduce illness and deaths while also combatting fear;
  • Assessing business risks (e.g., impact of worker absenteeism, supply chain delays, etc.);
  • Developing business continuity plans;
  • Working with legal counsel around issues of quarantines, screening returning travelers, leaves of absence, refusal to work and return to work;
  • Collaborating with local and international public health organizations regarding impacted workforce; and
  • Establishing policies to guide the company through an outbreak (e.g., determine critical workers, plan for emergency operations, establish lines of communication, telecommuting/evacuation/leave policies).

Transmission of Ebola

  • Transmission occurs when people come in direct contact with the bodily fluids (urine, stool, saliva, blood, semen) of infected individuals and animals (e.g. when caring for sick family members or through contaminated surfaces). Infected are only contagious once they are sick and start showing fairly obvious symptoms.
  • Health care workers or family members caring for patients with Ebola without proper protective equipment (PPE) [e.g. masks, gown, goggles, gloves] are most at risk of contracting the virus.1 All equipment should be disinfected with a bleach solution or discarded after use.2
  • Ritual burial ceremonies that have individuals in contact with the bodily fluids of deceased persons are a common transmission source throughout Africa. Persons dying due to Ebola should be handled only by those using protective equipment and should be buried immediately.1
  • Surfaces and linens that have come into contact with bodily fluids of infected persons may be infectious for several days.2,3

Prevention of Ebola

Individuals in the affected countries should practice the following precautions:

  • Avoid clinics and hospitals in West Africa that are treating Ebola patients, if possible and if you have not been exposed to the virus.4
  • Do not touch blood, bodily fluids or secretions, and do not participate in funeral ceremonies that involve touching a dead body.4
  • Do not handle or eat bats or “bushmeat.”4
  • If possible, stay at least 1 metre (3 feet) away from any person who is obviously sick.4
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.4
  • Avoid unprotected sexual intercourse for 7 weeks after recovery, during which time the virus can be transmitted through bodily fluids (e.g. semen).1,5
  • Do not share utensils and cups with infected individuals unless the utensils are disinfected with a bleach solution after use and air-dried.2

Ways NOT To Get Ebola

This information is incredibly important to prevent miscommunication. Ebola CANNOT be transmitted:5

  • Through the air, like a cold or flu,
  • By being in the same room of an infected person (though you can be infected by contaminated surfaces in that room), and
  • By mosquitos.

Ebola Symptoms

  • It typically takes 2 to 21 days for symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus.1
  • Initial symptoms include:1
    • Sudden onset of fever,
    • Intense weakness,
    • Muscle pain,
    • Headache, and
    • Sore throat.
  • Advanced symptoms include:1
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea,
    • Rash,
    • Impaired kidney and liver function, and
    • Both internal and external bleeding.

Treatment of Ebola

  • If a person has been in an area known to have Ebola virus disease or has been in contact with a person known or suspected to have Ebola and they begin to have symptoms (e.g. fever, sore throat), they should seek medical care immediately.1
  • Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. They are frequently dehydrated and need intravenous fluids or oral rehydration with solutions that contain electrolytes.1
  • There is currently no specific treatment available to cure the disease.1

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. What Employers Can Do About Ebola
  2. Transmission of Ebola
  3. Prevention of Ebola
  4. Ways NOT To Get Ebola
  5. Ebola Symptoms
  6. Treatment of Ebola