Ebola has not made its way to the state of Illinois, but the medical community is preparing for the worst. The Center for Disease Control has already marked O'Hare airport for additional screenings as a precaution. The Illinois Dept. of Health is putting infrastructure in place to make sure we are ready if and when a positive case is identified here.
Dr. Lamar Hasbrouk of the Illinois Dept of Public Health is making sure the public is educated and the hospitals are prepared when and if Ebola comes to Illinois. Five U.S. airports receive 94% of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations in West Africa, including O’Hare. For that reason, new screening processes will begin there next week.
"We understand the outbreak is still reeling out of control,” said Dr Hasbrouk. “Until its controlled in West Africa, there will be a some amount of risk in the U.S. and in state of Illinois. … We are well equipped to stop any transmission of any infectious disease. … In a nutshell, we feel like we are ready."
At O'Hare, staff is armed with questionnaires and thermometers for travelers coming from the three hot zone countries for Ebola located in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, alderman at city hall proposing screening facilities at both O'Hare and Midway airports--run by the Chicago Dept. of Public Health and paid for by the airlines.
There are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in the state and the Illinois Dept of Public Health promises complete transparency on this matter.
"Back when we had the SARS virus, I went to a number of different places and when you get off the airplane you would walk through a machine that would scan your forehead for a temperature," said Dr. Douglas Jackson, CEO of Project Cure. "We did it then, and it's a good idea to do now."
The Ebola virus can spread through contact with bodily fluids -- blood, sweat, feces, vomit, semen and saliva -- and only by someone who is showing symptoms, according to the CDC.
People with Ebola may not be symptomatic for up to 21 days.
Symptoms generally occur abruptly eight to 10 days after infection, though that period can range from two to 21 days, health officials say.
Air travelers must keep in mind that Ebola is not transmitted through the air, said Dr. Marty Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
"There needs to be direct contact frequently with body fluids or blood," he stressed.
"As far as a full blown outbreak here, that is not going to happen. The reason is we have the resources to contain a disease like ebola. Those diseases do not start unless there is extreme poverty," said Dr. Jackson. "Sierra Leone went through 20 years of war... and that's what creates the incubator for a disease like this."
For the latest on Ebola including resources or frequently asked questions and more log on to idph.state.il.us