Monday, February 9, 2009

Hemorrhagic Fever in the US

The CDC recently released a retrospective study disclosing that a Colorado man had bee infected with Marburg. Marburg is a hemorrhagic fever that is around 80% fatal. We got lucky on this case. The man recovered from his illness, and apparently did not spread the infection. This is the stuff that horror movies are made of, think Outbreak.

This infection terrifies me since the man was not diagnosed for an entire year! The damage that could have happened in a months time is pretty serious. I do not know what symptoms he presented with, but I would think that someone presenting with signs of a hemorrhagic fever would be at the top of the CDCs priority list, especially someone with a history of recent travel to Africa. That's why I'm terrified that it took them a year to determine the diagnosis.

In this age of quick and easy international travel, we all need to take precautions. According to the CDC, people traveling internationally should
  • Avoid contact with bats and other wild animals. Travelers should not enter caves or mines where bats may live.
  • Go to a doctor right away if you have a fever AND you had contact with animals or sick people, or visited bat-infested caves in Africa during the past three weeks.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by an animal or if body fluid (such as saliva) from the animal gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound, take these steps:
    • Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
    • Go to a doctor or hospital right away.
  • Consider buying medical evacuation insurance if you are visiting a country where there may not be good access to medical care.
We all need to consider the risks of international travel. People are able to quickly travel and can be on a different continent before developing symptoms. We've seen this repeatedly, most notably with SARS and now Marburg. Before traveling please consider not only your own health, but that of your friends and family. Visit your doctor before departure for recommendations specific to the area you are traveling to. A naturopathic physician can help you with not only travel vaccines, but also trying to strengthen your immune system.

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