Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center confirmed with Boston.com Tuesday morning that the patient from Braintree who was suspected to have Ebola over the weekend has not contracted the deadly virus and remains in “good condition.’’ Boston public health officials have emphasized that there are currently no Ebola cases in the city, despite a few suspected cases in recent weeks.
The patient in Braintree who was transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Sunday was at “very low risk’’ of having Ebola, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. Health officials classify suspected Ebola cases as high risk, low risk, and no risk according to guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see below).
The heightened fear and anxiety around the disease is likely out of a misunderstanding of exactly how the virus is spread and contracted, said Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at the BPHC, at a press conference Monday afternoon. While she was speaking, a medical response team was removing five passengers with flu-like symptoms from Flight 237 from United Arab Emirates at Boston Logan International Airport. The passengers were reported to have flu-like symptoms, but none had traveled to West Africa recently. Late Monday evening BPHC said that none of the patients were a public health threat. There was no evidence of Ebola or MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
“Education is a key thing that we are doing right now,’’ said Barry. “The public needs to know how Ebola is spread and not spread. We receive many questions from people concerned about being in close proximity with people who are well and not ill.’’
The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids while he is contagious. To be contagious, a person has to be experiencing symptoms of Ebola such as a fever, headaches, diarrhea, or abdominal pains.
Barry said the virus Bostonians should be worried about isn’t Ebola.
“Frankly, people are more at risk for influenza, and it’s time for everybody to get their flu vaccine,’’ she said.
Here is the “risk’’ breakdown of Ebola according to the CDC:
– High risk: suspected cases are those who have had a needle stick, been exposed to the mucous membrane or other bodily fluids of a confirmed Ebola patient without personal protective equipment. Someone who has had direct skin contact with a person who is contagious, or with a contagious person’s remains, without protective equipment would also be classified as high risk.
– Low risk: suspected cases have either been in the same home as a confirmed Ebola patient or they have had close contact with a patient in health care facilities. Walking by an infected person or moving through a hospital, according to the CDC, does not qualify as “close contact.’’ People sitting next to you on an airplane who are not actively sick are not likely to give you Ebola, Barry said.
– No risk: suspected cases have likely been to an area where the Ebola outbreak occurred within the past 21 days but had no exposure.