Ebola is gone, but not forgotten

Samantha Ickes

News of the largest Ebola outbreak in history consumed the media last semester.

Yet with no current cases of Ebola in the United States, Americans no longer see the virus in the daily news. 

However, the virus has not disappeared. It still affects South Africa, including the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where scientists are starting to test a vaccine to prevent the disease although it is dissipating. 

Since March 2014, the number of deaths from the current Ebola epidemic outnumber all previous outbreaks combined, according the World Health Organization.

As of Jan. 6, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 21,086 cases of the virus with 8,289 deaths across the globe. Of those 21,086 cases, four of them were in the U.S.

One case in particular affected the Kent area: Kent State nursing alumna Amber Vinson’s case. 

Vinson traveled throughout the Akron area days before testing positive for Ebola. 

After Vinson first tested positive for the virus, rumors circulated saying she visited Kent State’s campus, which were false. Three of Vinson’s relatives were later identified as Kent State employees. 

Vinson confirmed she visited the bridal shop Coming Attractions Bridal and Formal, which announced on Jan. 7 will close its doors on Jan. 31 after 31 years in business, said store manager Kayla Litz.

The store has been unable to recuperate from the loss of business because of its association with Ebola since Vinson’s visit. 

The bridal shop closed for the recommended 21 quarantine days, and the store’s owner, Anna Younker, hired a company to clean and disinfect the store.

“We knew it was going to be bad,” Litz said. “There’s a stigma with the word and that makes people think of death.”

The store briefly closed during its busiest season as brides prepared for spring and summer weddings. Once the store reopened, many brides wanted refunds due to the negative reputation Ebola brought to the store.

“It’s sad,” Litz said. “This wasn’t part of the plan.” 

Litz said the shop invested in tuxedos for the first time to offer and purchased dresses from a new bridal gown line.

A fan of the shop, Terri Crispin, created a GoFundMe page to raise funds to keep the store in business. As of Jan. 11, the page had raised more than $7,500 of its $20,000 goal.

With such a deadly virus close to home, it raises the question as to if the Kent area is prepared for such a virus.

“The CDC recommends that frontline health care facilities immediately isolates any patient with relevant exposure history and signs and symptoms compatible with the Ebola Virus Disease,” said Joan Seidel, infection preventionist at Robinson Memorial Hospital. 

Once the patient is quarantined, the hospital will collaborate with public health officials like the Ohio Health Department to transport the patient to a designated, CDC-approved lab in order to test the patient for Ebola.

“Our rule would be to isolate and get them to an appropriate facility,” said Angela DeJulius, director of University Health Services.

The individual would receive supportive care including IV fluids, fever reducers and anti-nausea medication during isolation.

“The patient would be transferred to a regional center for treatment because many of the current treatment options are experimental and have been approved by Food and Drug Administration on emergency basis,” Seidel said.

Though the risk of being exposed to the Ebola virus is low in Portage County, local hospitals and health centers feel ready for a serious virus like Ebola.

“Certainly travelers from the outbreak region could come to our county or health care workers who have cared for these patients,” Seidel said. “But, as we saw in October 2014, public health stepped in, and there were no further transmissions.” 

Being prepared plays a huge role in health care and providing health services to the public. Every public health facility must be prepared for any virus or epidemic that may present itself to the area.

“We always need to be in that state of readiness,” DeJulius said. “We can prepare for Ebola, but something else is going to happen. In public health, we take a broader approach because you never know what’s going to walk through the door.”

Contact Samantha Ickes at [email protected].