Q&A: Ebola Virus

Thursday, August 07, 2014 12:28 PM comments (0)

Dr. ThomsonRichard (Tom) Thomson, PhD, Director of the Microbiology Laboratory and Division Head of Clinical Pathology at NorthShore, provides answers to some common questions regarding the Ebola virus: 

How is it transmitted?
It is not known to be airborne. Ebola is passed through direct contact with bodily fluids and specimens from patients infected with the virus. So it is family, caretakers and healthcare workers with close contact to an infected person who face the greatest risk if they don’t take the right precautions. 

Can you contract Ebola from contact with someone who does not exhibit any symptoms? 
No. An individual who is infected but not exhibiting symptoms is not contagious. If a person is symptomatic, he or she can spread the virus but only through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood. So, as an example, if you were sitting next to someone on a plane who developed symptoms of Ebola a week or 10 days later, you were not at risk for infection because they were asymptomatic at the time.  

How are American healthcare workers being infected with the virus?
Unfortunately, the ability of healthcare workers in Africa to protect themselves is different from the ability of healthcare workers to protect themselves in the United States. They do not have the facilities that we have here in this country. In the U.S., we have the facilities and training to handle many different infections of various risks. And while Ebola presents one of the greatest risks to healthcare workers, we have procedures in place that will be used to handle any Ebola patients who enter the country. 

How is the spread of the virus to the United States being prevented?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have specific procedures in place to follow if they feel that someone on a plane is symptomatic. That person would arrive in the United States and be put immediately in the appropriate containment in one of our hospitals. They also have screening efforts ongoing in West Africa to prevent symptomatic persons from getting on planes. By following those procedures, the spread of the virus into the United States is very unlikely. 

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Antibiotics: When You Need Them, When You Don’t

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 8:21 AM comments (0)

AntibioticsSome of the most common illnesses that send us to the doctor’s office can be easily treated with medications; however, there isn’t an easy, one-stop solution for every sniffle, cough or infection.

While antibiotics are one of the most frequently prescribed medications for a variety of conditions, they are not a cure-all for everything. In fact, for many common illnesses caused by viruses (flu, colds and sore throats), antibiotics are not recommended. So when do you know if an antibiotic will help relieve symptoms?

Dirk Killelea, Manager of the NorthShore Evanston Hospital Pharmacy, offers his insight on antibiotics, including when you should take them and when you shouldn’t:

  • Antibiotics are most effective in the treatment of illnesses caused by bacteria, which can include sinus infections and strep throat. They should not be prescribed or taken for viral infections such as the common cold, as this can lead to the build-up of a tolerance, also called resistance, within some forms of bacteria and will not improve symptoms.  This resistance makes it harder to treat bacterial infections later.
  • Follow prescription instructions. Make sure you take the antibiotic the prescribed number of times per day. It is also very important to take an antibiotic for the duration of the prescription time, even if you are feeling better. Stopping treatment too soon may not allow sufficient time to get the bacteria out of your system.   Additionally, not finishing the full course of an antibiotic prescription can lead to increased resistance among bacteria. If you are told by your physician to stop an antibiotic before it has finished, however, always dispose of them properly.
  • Don’t share medications. Even if you’re certain you have a sinus infection and someone in your family had a similar infection recently, don’t use their antibiotics. What you are experiencing may not be the same infection, or even an infection that requires treatment.  This can cause more problems related to bacterial resistance.
  • Ask Questions.  Let your pharmacist or physician know any concerns or questions you have before taking antibiotics.  If you have read information from an online source about an antibiotic, verify any questions with a healthcare professional. Make sure to tell him or her what over-the-counter medications you use as well as any new prescriptions that you may have started recently.
  • Do your part.  If you are feeling sick and are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to get plenty of rest, keep drinking fluids and eat a balanced diet. Antibiotics can only do so much, it’s up to you to keep yourself rested and help the medicine do its job.

How frequently do you take antibiotics?

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