Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared of Ebola

Washing hands in soapy water.

News reports of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the first diagnoses in the United States have many people on edge. But cold and flu season poses a much closer threat in the Seattle area – and boosting your immune system can help with those.

“While Ebola is a very serious disease, there is no need to panic,” says Jamey Wallace, ND, MSEE, the chief medical officer at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. “People who have contracted the disease generally had significant exposure to body fluids and in some cases did not use appropriate protective equipment. Following common sense safety precautions (like those listed below) will help protect you from getting Ebola.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ebola is not spread through air, water or food (except for bushmeat), or through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low.

How is Ebola Spread?

The time from exposure to when signs or symptoms of the disease appear (the incubation period) is two to 21 days, but the average time is eight to 10 days.

Signs of Ebola include fever (higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit) and symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or through the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:

  • Blood and body fluids (urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.
  • Objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with the blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola.

Protect Yourself From Ebola

There is no FDA-approved vaccine available for Ebola. Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.

  • DO wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do NOT touch the blood or body fluids (like urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat, and semen) of people who are sick.
  • Do NOT handle items that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids, like clothes, bedding, needles, or medical equipment.
  • Do NOT touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola.

Boost Your Immune System

Although the risk is low that someone infected with Ebola will show up at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the clinic is working closely with Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Bastyr Center has a triage protocol in place aligned with CDC guidelines and will work directly with Public Health in the event that we suspect a patient has been exposed to Ebola,” Dr. Wallace says.

“While the risk of contracting Ebola here is low,” he adds, “it reminds us to keep our immune system strong by getting proper sleep, staying hydrated and keeping stress levels low.”

Other tips to help boost your immune system include:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Supplement with up to 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day
  • Eat antioxidant-rich food, such as dark leafy greens, and bright fruits and vegetables
  • Cut out sugar and other refined foods
  • Consider adding immune-supporting herbs

Sources: CDC Ebola website, Bastyr Center for Natural Health Chief Medical Officer Jamey Wallace, ND, MSEE