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Protect Yourself from Illness

Illness of many forms can arise throughout the world and grow to become an endemic or pandemic concern. As part of our commitment to this community, Mercy can provide you with basic information and resources about various illnesses as they heighten in awareness around the world.  See below for recent illnesses in the news.


October 2014

There continues to be news about Ebola outbreaks in West Africa.

The CDC emphasizes there is "no significant risk" of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. It is spread only “through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids,” according to the World Health Organization.

The probability of contracting Ebola in Iowa and the U.S. is low. Patients experiencing fever, headache, weakness, etc., while similar to Ebola symptoms, likely have another condition, such as the flu, and should visit their primary care provider for treatment.

However, if you have recently traveled to West Africa or been exposed to someone who has, you may be at greater risk for a serious condition like Ebola. Please call your healthcare provider or emergency services to ensure you receive immediate care.

To prevent contracting Ebola, avoid travel to endemic areas (e.g. Western Africa) and be cautious when in contact with anyone recently returned from that area, especially if they show signs of illness.

Heightened global awareness of any illness is also a good time to remember the universal precautions listed below to avoid many types of illnesses.

CDC information on Ebola:

Prevention Efforts at Mercy

Mercy Medical Center continues to prepare to safely care for patients with a contagious disease, including Ebola.

Protocols have been developed by staff, including infection prevention specialists. These protocols include the use of Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers, and will be revised as new information becomes available. Training, sharing of information and completing inventory of necessary equipment is ongoing.

Patients with symptoms of contagious diseases including Ebola presenting to Mercy should be prepared to answer whether they have traveled to West Africa or been exposed to someone who has traveled from that region. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8-10 days. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea.

This information is vital to enable healthcare workers to screen travel history and symptoms so patients with possible Ebola can be immediately recognized. If possible, patients that suspect they may have Ebola because of potential exposure to persons in West Africa should stay in their home and call the Linn County Department of Public Health at (319) 892-6093 or call 911 depending on the severity of their condition. If en route to Mercy Medical Center's ER, please call the ER at (319) 398-6041 in while en route. This will allow healthcare providers to identify and immediately isolate the individual.

Human Enterovirus EV-D68

Sick girlSeptember 8, 2014

Several Midwestern states, including Iowa, are reporting cases of respiratory illness, some severe enough to require children to be hospitalized.  Those affected  states have contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for help in investigating enterovirus.

There have been no documented cases of pediatric patients with enteroviruses admitted for treatment at Mercy Medical Center.

According to the CDC, enteroviruses are fairly common. However, this particular strain – Human Enterovirus EV-D68 – is uncommon, but not new. It was first identified in the 1960s.

Most people who get infected with enteroviruses do not get sick or, they may have mild illness, like the common cold. But, some people can get very sick; infants and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of having these complications. 

You can get infected with enteroviruses by having close contact with an infected person or by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Human Enterovirus EV-D68 produces symptoms similar to a severe cold but can be particularly dangerous for children with asthma because of how it affects the respiratory system.

Symptoms of mild illness may include: fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, skin rashes, mouth blisters, and body and muscle aches.
There is no vaccine to protect you from the enterovirus infection. However, you can help protect yourself and others from enterovirus infections by following the precautions at the bottom of this page.

In the United States, people are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall.

Download a tip sheet.

If you suspect you or a member of your family have developed Human Enterovirus EV-D68, contact your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider a please call MercyCare Find-a-Doc at (319) 369-4444 to learn about your available options.

Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Man blowing his noseMay 15, 2014

Illnesses linked to newly identified organisms continue to emerge as a threat both in the U.S. and abroad. In May 2014, a new virus, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was identified in the U.S.

To protect yourself and others from illness, the CDC recommends following the universal precautions listed below.

Universal Health Precautions

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.

Visit the CDC website to learn more: