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Mom Says Symptoms Match Ebola’s: Is She Right?


While it is unlikely that Ebola will become a problem for most clinicians in the US, it is prudent to be prepared. Test your knowledge of this rare, but deadly disease with a clinical scenario.


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The correct answer is A.

Score another one for “Dr Internet.” Mom is correct. The child exhibits the classic presentation of Ebola. Vomiting then develops and is followed within a day or two by bruising and bleeding from the anus, eyes, nose, and mouth. In other words, for the first few days of illness, Ebola looks like a lot of viral illnesses (particularly influenza) that pediatricians see every day in their office. 

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The correct answer is A.

The first screening tool according to the CDC should be to obtain a travel and exposure history for the last 3 weeks. The CDC divides patients into 4 groups: high risk, some risk, low risk, and no identifiable risk. See the following CDC link for an explanation of the various risk factors: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/exposure/risk-factors-when-evaluating-person-for-exposure.html

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The correct answer is B.

The maximum incubation time for Ebola is 21 days. The most common time to show signs of illness after exposure is about one week. Being in the same room with a symptomatic person with Ebola but without direct contact still puts the exposed person in a low-risk category.

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The correct answer is D.

Mom is still within that 21 day window so she may be incubating an Ebola infection. The child is not at risk today even if her mother does develop symptoms the next day. Individuals with Ebola are not infectious until they become symptomatic. The CDC recommends that the health department be immediately notified. Routine hospitalization is not needed in asymptomatic persons with exposure. See the following link for the CDC’s recommended evaluation of a traveler returning to the US from a country with widespread Ebola disease: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/ebola-algorithm.pdf

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