Local doctors weigh in on Ebola concerns

(AP photo)


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – As health experts scramble to calm fears and avoid a world-wide panic over Ebola, the Valley expert on infectious diseases was busy Tuesday treating patients suffering from a potentially far more dangerous disease: Tuberculosis.

“People forget in all the history of the earth, the one disease that killed more people than any other is tuberculosis,” said Dr. John Venglarcik, Mahoning County District Board of Health.

Venglarcik said even with just two confirmed cases in this country, there is already what he calls an information overload in the media.

“We are giving information about something that people with 25 years of schooling have a hard time getting their hands around,” Venglarcik said. “We are trying to hit the average 7th grade reader.”

The Ohio Department of Health is trying to spread the word that experts are prepared on the off-chance Ebola will reach this state, urging residents and the media to stick with the facts.

“I would hope that the continuation of the discussion would be on the factual basis of what is going on and the medical science behind the disease, rather than controversies between individuals,” said Brent Mulgrew, executive director of the Ohio State Medical Association.

Recently, there seems to be a disconnect between different health groups. One claiming Ebola is out of control and another saying there’s nothing to worry about. Venglarcik said some so-called medical experts may just be looking for their “fifteen minutes of fame.”

“I’m just saying that we are all humans and given the opportunity to promote oneself, people will do that,” said Venglarcik. “I think that is what is going on.

According to an Associated Press report, emergency rooms are starting to see patients that doctors are calling “the worried well” showing up with flu-like symptoms that have them concerned about Ebola, state health officials said Tuesday.

Fever and diarrhea are common complaints with any type of viral illness and especially now that flu season is approaching, said Dr. Carol Cunningham, state medical director for the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

The key is to remember that contracting the Ebola virus would involve a history of travel to three countries in West Africa only, she said.

“Without that history, it’s more likely to be a viral illness,” she said, reminding people that it’s important to get a flu shot.

Any report of Ebola would launch a ripple effect of health officials immediately identifying anyone who had contact with a patient, added Sheila Hiddleson, with the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners.

“We will call you,” she said. “If we think that you’ve been exposed, even if it’s a remote exposure, we’re going to be contacting you, so hopefully that will help with the worried well not showing up at the hospital doors.”

In Dallas, a nurse became infected with Ebola while treating the first patient diagnosed in the U.S.

Also on Tuesday, the World Health Organization projected that West Africa could see up to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week within two months and confirmed the death rate in the current outbreak has risen to 70 percent.

Ohio hospitals have access to equipment such as protective suits they would need in the unlikely event of an outbreak, said Michael Abrams, president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association.

The CDC has authorized the Ohio Health Department to conduct initial Ebola testing, with confirmation testing done by the federal agency.

Venglarcik insists you’re much more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to contract Ebola.

For more information on Ebola and additional reports, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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