Defined as the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
Since 2007, the organization has only declared such emergencies two other times: for the 2009 swine flu pandemic and for polio in May 2014. According to Margaret Chan, MD, director-general of WHO, “The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest, most severe, and most complex outbreak in the nearly 4-decade history of this disease. [It’s] moving faster than we can control it”.
At least 932 deaths and 1,711 cases have been reported throughout Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and most recently, Nigeria since December. However, the organization is not recommending general bans on travel or trade.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also stated clearly that physicians should query patients presenting with symptoms of Ebola about recent travel to affected parts of Africa. Symptoms for this virus infection may include – sudden fever, often as high as 103º-105º F, intense weakness, sore throat, headache and profuse vomiting and diarrhea (occurs 1-2 days after the aforementioned symptoms). More severe symptoms can develop in as soon as 24-48 hours, leading to bleeding from the nasal or oral cavities, along with hemorrhagic skin blisters.
The WHO committee also recommends that:
- For countries with ongoing active transmission, the head of state should declare a national emergency
- People who are leaving a country with active Ebola transmission should be screened for symptoms that may be consistent with Ebola infection
- People with this infection should be in treatment and kept in isolation for 30 days
- Contacts of infected people should be monitored for 21 days, and during that period, they should not travel
- Probable or suspect cases of Ebola should also be isolated until they have 2 blood tests at least 48 hours apart that are negative
Medical Coding for Ebola
Physicians providing treatment for this infection can use ICD-9 code to bill the service under Fever, hemorrhagic, Ebola:
- 065.8 – Other specified arthropod-borne hemorrhagic fever
- 078.89 – Other specified diseases due to viruses
The specific code is available in ICD-10
- A98.4 – Ebola virus disease.