Dentists Still Face Ebola Risk in Africa

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The Ebola outbreak in West Africa dominated headlines in 2014 and 2015. Doctors and dentists who practiced in the region risked infection, including practitioners who treated facial burns, cleft lip and palate, and noma. A study published by Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery assessed their risk of contracting the disease.

Dentists may see Ebola manifest as odynophagia. Also, nonspecific lesions may appear as whitish or reddish patches and aphthous-like ulcerations. Gingival bleeding occurs in the later phases of the disease. These symptoms are not specific to Ebola, though, so dentists would not necessarily see them as signs of the virus.

No dental personnel from Europe have been infected with Ebola, the researchers report. They also don’t expect dental teams in Europe to encounter any new patients. Yet practitioners in West or sub-Saharan Africa still may encounter asymptomatic patients or early stage patients with nonspecific symptoms with the virus who present for dental or surgical treatment. Postponement of nonessential treatment for 21 days after possible exposure, then, is recommended.

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