Why your building doesn't need to freak out about Ebola

By Virginia K. Smith  | October 31, 2014 - 11:59AM

City officials have been taking a firm "don't panic" stance when it comes to the potential spread of Ebola, and the same attitude should apply to your apartment building, writes Habitat Magazine. In other words, your board's best bet is to err on the side of prepared, but not hysterical.

The first step is to get educated about the actual facts of the disease—namely, that patients aren't contagious until they start showing symptoms, and that the only way to contract it is through "direct contact with bodily fluids," i.e. something that doesn't happen too often between neighbors passing in the hallway. It'd be wise to pass this information along to residents, as well, to clear up any misconceptions.

If someone in your building does end up under quarantine, the board should inform residents and its insurance carrier as soon as possible. You can read up on specific quarantine recommendations here—they vary depending on the level of risk involved—and it may be wise to decide ahead of time how to handle a quarantined resident's access to common areas (elevators, mail rooms, etc.). While they likely wouldn't pose much of a risk in these shared spaces, there may still be a fear factor with the neighbors.

If a resident starts showing symptoms, both the patient and the building should immediately notify public health officials, and defer to their recommendations for sanitizing the apartment and keeping the rest of the building safe. For now, though, the best approach is a healthy dose of caution combined with a healthy grain of salt. We appreciated the perspective of one neighbor of New York's first Ebola patient, Craig Spencer, who told the Daily News, "I'm not concerned. I've had no fluid exchanges with my neighbors."


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