Valley doctors reassess international travel after Ebola outbreak

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Ebola outbreak is now affecting several doctors, and some Central Valley physicians who battle infectious diseases around the world are reassessing their work.

As patients poured into the medical tents that popped up in Port Au Prince, Haiti, after the country's massive earthquake, Dr. Rais Vohra felt compelled to help.

"People that go into health care do so out of a desire to help others and for many of us that desire extends to global health," he said.

The UCSF Fresno emergency medicine specialist returned to the country twice more, the last time to help calm a cholera outbreak.

Like Ebola, cholera is an infectious disease, but it's spread through contaminated water and food while Ebola infection requires direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick patient.

"With cholera, you don't necessarily have to wear a mask, but you do have to be very cognizant of inoculating skin, mucus membranes," said Dr. Vohra.

Through his Haiti trips, Dr. Vohra met health care workers who are now in west Africa, trying to control Ebola. He says Doctors Without Borders and other agencies working there are taking the right precautions, and here at home, the safety protocols are improving.

Doctors here at CRMC say they're prepared to handle an Ebola patient if one comes along, but any patients would be shipped off to a UC medical facility. Meanwhile, local doctors are more concerned about seasonal flu than Ebola.

"Because I think that's going to be a much bigger problem for us than Ebola," said Dr. Vohra.

The CDC says the seasonal flu kills anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 Americans each year. So far, only one person has died from Ebola in the United States. Two more are in treatment, including the doctor diagnosed Thursday after his visit to west Africa. Internationally traveling doctors are now under much more stringent monitoring when they come home.

"I think the preventative measures, the screening that's being put in place is all really appropriate," said Dr. Vohra.

It's an extra ounce of prevention allowing doctors to hopefully deliver a pound of cure before an epidemic spreads.

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