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Arizona health official: Ebola outbreak in US unlikely

PHOENIX — As doctors in Dallas work to contain the threat of Ebola after the first patient in the U.S. was diagnosed with the disease, the Arizona Department of Health Services said an outbreak of the disease is highly unlikely.

“Ebola is not spread that easily,” said Cara Christ, the department’s chief medical officer. She added it’s much more difficult for Ebola to be passed from one person to another than it is for most diseases.

“It’s not like flu, where flu is highly contagious,” she said. “When you touch a door, even before you’re sick or you know that you’re sick, you’re contagious.”

The flu is often spread by coughing or sneezing, which sends diseased germs into the air and onto surfaces. Christ said Ebola doesn’t work that way.

“When you look at how Ebola is spread, you actually have to come into direct contact with somebody else’s bodily fluids,” she said. “People with Ebola are not contagious until they’re actually showing signs and symptoms of the disease.”

Also, Christ said modern medicine and sanitation procedures make it very unlikely that the United States will see widespread infections.

“With appropriate hand washing (and) infection control protocols, this is a virus that is going to be very easily contained,” she said.

For paramedics in Mesa, Arizona who deal with disease on a daily basis, it’s business as usual even with the possibility of dealing with a new kind of disease because preparing for the unexpected is part of their job.

Capt. Craig Chenery said each paramedic is outfitted with a fanny pack of supplies, including gloves, masks, glasses and hand sanitizer intended to keep them protected from many types of diseases, whether it’s Ebola, hepatitis or the flu.

“More times than not, they people we’re (working) on know what they have,” he said. “But regardless of whether we’re just picking someone up or we’re going on flu-like symptoms, we’re going to be wearing the same protection on every call.”