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With more news about Ebola popping up every day, it’s natural for people to be concerned. And on Monday in New York City, when a 5-year-old boy who arrived from Guinea was taken to a hospital to be screened for the disease, media around the world covered it with worrisome photos and reports of vomiting and a 103-degree fever. Though the child tested negative for Ebola within the day, that didn’t stop parents from, for lack of a better term, freaking out.
Last week, after a doctor who had been treating Ebola patients in West Africa was diagnosed with the disease in New York City, Michel Cohen, MD, Founder of Tribeca Pediatrics — a highly regarded NYC pediatric practice — sent an email to patients’ parents and posted on Facebook about the virus: “New York, as an international hub, was expected to have an Ebola case. So here we go.” He went on to write, “At this time, screening children for elevated temperature would be confusing and worthless especially as flu season approaches.”
Still, parents worried. One responded with a comment: “Can you please clarify: if this doctor sneezed or coughed on a train, would droplets excreted containing the virus be airborne and therefore a risk?” (The answer is no.)
Dr. Maja Castillo, MD, of Tribeca Pediatrics talked to Yahoo Parenting about the fears that are coming up for moms and dads, and she wants to put everyone at ease. “Parents with children who have not traveled to one of the virus countries have zero reason to fear,” she says. She notes that Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, and though children exchange those more regularly than adults, as long as your child hasn’t had contact with someone returning from a high-risk country there is no need to worry.
Ebola cannot be transmitted when a person is not symptomatic, which Castillo explains means that “even if you sat on the subway next to someone with Ebola, unless he’s actively vomiting on you, you’re not at risk.” Castillo wants parents to keep in mind that Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, Texas, did not transmit the disease to anyone living in the house with him even at the start of his illness. “These were people he was sharing a home with,” she says. “Plates, utensils, a bathroom, all shared. And not one person contracted Ebola. Only the people who cared for him at the worst of his illness were at risk.”
What if your child has a fever and is vomiting? “That has to do with the season,” says Castillo. In other words: It’s the flu.