By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The third annual Infectious Disease Conference kicks off today at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. As thousands of infectious disease practitioners from all over the world are in Philadelphia, the word on the tip of their lips is Ebola.

“It’s very deadly and it’s very scary, but it’s not contagious,” says Dr. Amesh Adalja, a member of the public health committee of the American Infectious Disease Society, one of the hosts of the conference.

He says attendees will hear from doctors with experience treating Ebola in West Africa. They’ll explain how cultural norms, civil unrest and lack of infections controls in West Africa exacerbated the spread of the disease — a virus that passes only through direct contact with blood and body fluid.

“Often health care providers don’t have the personal health care equipment, the gowns, the gloves, the masks the eye protection that you need when taking care of these patients,” he says. “This is what allowed the disease to spread.”

He says the limited methods of transmission is one of the reasons Ebola infection rates in West Africa are unlikely to be duplicated in the US, but cases can be imported anywhere — something learned from the situation in Texas, so there are lessons to learn.

“You have to really emphasize travel history amongst healthcare providers,” says Adalja. “They really have to ask patients if they have been to any of these countries where Ebola is spreading in the last 21 days.”

Other topics of discussion include the “enterovirus” infecting children in multiple states, as well as the latest strain of the flu that is predicted to hit this season.

The conference runs through Sunday. For more info, go to www.idweek.org.

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