BY NOEL BRANDON KELSCH, RDHAP
Nancy Writebol has been described as unassuming and
humble. She worked as a medical missionary. She’s like
many other people I know – willing to make sacrifices in
order to give care. For 14 years she and her husband have
left the comforts of home and put their lives at risk to serve
others, ministering to orphans and vulnerable children in
Africa. Last year their journey of service took them to Monrovia, Liberia.
They were quickly faced with
life-changing circumstances —
the Ebola outbreak in March 2014.
They turned down the opportunity to evacuate when Ebola struck.
Congressman Robert Pittenger
stated, “They could have chosen
the easy route. Instead they chose
a higher calling of sacrificial love
and service.” 1
The hospital where they were
working became the Monrovia
Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center. Nancy volunteered
as part of a crisis team. Her role
included disinfecting doctors and
nurses working with Ebola patients. It is reported that she followed the standards developed by the Centers for Disease
Control and Infection (CDC), the World Health Organization
(WHO), Liberia Ministry, and other global health authorities.
Within just a few short months, Nancy was diagnosed
with the Ebola virus on July 25, 2014. It’s not clear at this
point how she contracted the disease. Nancy was transported back to the United States using a specially designed
transportation system that was developed to contain the
disease. Nancy and Dr. Kent Brantly, who also contracted
the illness, were later discharged from the hospital, and the
CDC reported that the virus is no longer present in their
blood. Both survivors are no longer at risk of transmitting
the disease. It is believed that the experimental medication
that they were given had a major impact.
The CDC has well-established protocols in place to en-
sure the safe transport and care of U. S. citizens who contract
infectious diseases back to the United States. Patients were
evacuated in similar ways during the SARS outbreak. The
CDC has also implemented screening of travelers and isola-
tion precautions on all flights from infected countries. On
July 31, the CDC elevated their warning to U.S. citizens, en-
couraging them to defer unnecessary travel to Guinea, Libe-
ria, and Sierra Leone due to concerns that travelers may not
have access to health-care facilities and personnel should
they need them in one of these countries. 2 It is important to
stay updated on these warnings because they can change
daily as the disease spreads from country to country.
WHAT IS EBOLA?
Ebola is a virus that once contracted leads to viral hemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms
appear anywhere from two to
21 days after contracting the virus. Commonly the symptoms
appear in eight to 10 days from
exposure. The CDC lists symptoms as fever, headache, joint
and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain,
lack of appetite, and abnormal
bleeding. Patients have also experienced rash, red eyes, hiccups, cough, sore throat, chest
pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and bleeding
inside and outside of the body. Patients that are asymptomatic are not contagious. In order to get the virus, one must
have direct contact with an individual who has symptoms.
It is a severe, often fatal disease, with a fatality rate of up to
90%, according to WHO.
HOW IS IT TRANSMITTED?
The transmission of Ebola is very specific, including di-
NOEL BRANDON KELSCH, RDHAP, is a syndicated columnist, writer, speaker, and cartoonist.
She serves on the editorial review committee
for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Pre-
vention newsletter and has received many na-
tional awards. Kelsch owns her dental hygiene
practice that focuses on access to care for all
and helps facilitate the Simi Valley Free Dental
Clinic. She has devoted much of her 35 years
in dentistry to educating people about the devastating effects of
methamphetamines and drug use. She is a past president of the
California Dental Hygienists’ Association.