Health officials in Iowa are keeping close tabs on developments overseas with the deadliest-ever outbreak and continued spread of the ebola  virus. Iowa Department of Public Health medical director Patty Quinlisk says Iowa’s medical facilities are ready to handle this type of challenge, however unlikely it is to reach our state.

Dr. Quinlisk says, “Most of our hospitals and clinics deal with diseases that can spread all of the time so there’s a lot of basic training that has been going on for years in our hospitals on what we call blood-borne pathogens, and ebola would be one of them.” The outbreak has expanded into three African nations in the past several months and has claimed more than 700 lives.

Health emergencies are posted in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Quinlisk says it is possible to have an outbreak of ebola in Iowa but it is not likely, though Iowans do travel to that part of the world. “The hospitals pretty much know what to do and hopefully, if they have somebody coming back from western Africa with a fever, they would immediately put them into isolation and use the appropriate precautions,” according to Quinlisk. In addition to the 729 deaths, more than 1,300 cases of ebola are suspected in those African nations.

This outbreak is of particular concern as it’s continuing to spread and claim more lives, while in the past, Quinlisk says the outbreaks usually died out relatively quickly. “We would recommend tourists and people who are traveling for pleasure to avoid those areas,” Quinlisk says. “Certainly, if any Iowans are going there to help support those countries in trying to deal with the ebola outbreak, they’re being given proper training on how to protect themselves.”

Ebola is highly-infectious and may start out with flu-like symptoms, things like fever, muscle pain, weakness, headache and sore throat. As it worsens, there is internal bleeding and the kidneys and liver become impaired. The survival rate is poor. Between 60- and 90-percent of the people who develop ebola will die from it. There is more information about ebola at the Iowa Department of Public Health website: