What are your thoughts on Ebola and the dental office? Should we be concerned about saliva/blood in aerosols from ultrasonic instruments, high/ low speeds hand pieces, etc? Does the PPE we wear protect us from Ebola (exposed foreheads, necks, ears, hair)? Where can I go to find out the information needed specifically for the dental office?
Thank you for your question. Ebola is certainly a newsworthy topic and something to be aware of. Dental workers should understand the disease and its risks. Thankfully the risk of Ebola is low in dentistry.
According to current information, someone with Ebola is not contagious until they show symptoms of the disease. Symptoms include fever of 101.5 degrees or higher, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding. The virus is spread through direct contact with blood and bodily fluids of a person sick with Ebola. The likelihood of an Ebola infected person coming into the dental office for routine procedures is low. The infected person would most likely be too ill to present for a dental appointment. However, dental health care workers must stay abreast of the latest updates related to Ebola.
Oral healthcare workers should thoroughly screen patients by taking a health history (including asking if the patient has experienced any of the symptoms of Ebola, questioning the patient if they have been in contact with a known infected Ebola patient, and questioning if travel to West Africa has occurred in the past 21 days) and taking vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, & respirations) including temperature if a patient is suspected to have the disease.
Routine dental treatment would not be indicated for a patient known to have Ebola. If Ebola is suspected, the patient should be immediately isolated in a hospital setting. Routine dental PPE would not be sufficient to protect oral healthcare workers. Medical personnel have strict PPE measures they must take in working with Ebola patients including no skin exposure (full coverage of skin is required), use of a full length face mask, double gloving, boot covers, fluid resistant garments, respirators, and surgical hoods.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has the latest updates and guidance on Ebola. Their website is http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html. The American Dental Association (ADA) also has excellent resources and their website is: http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/ebola-resources.
The Organization for Safety Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) works closely with both CDC and ADA for guidance to dental workers and has an excellent Ebola toolkit. Their website: http://www.osap.org/?page=ebola.
I will have a full-length article on "Emerging Infectious Diseases" (including Ebola) published in the December 2014 issue of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene so please look for that when the issue comes out. Thanks again for your timely question.