Community Hospitals Train Staff To Deal With Potential Ebola Cases | WAMC

Community Hospitals Train Staff To Deal With Potential Ebola Cases

Oct 3, 2014

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Now that Ebola has been confirmed in Texas, community hospitals in upstate New York say they’re prepared for any potential cases of the disease.

Dr. Brian McDermott, an infectious disease specialist and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Glens Falls Hospital, says the New York State Department of Health and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention have been communicating with community hospitals over the past month  to prepare for any potential Ebola patients.

McDermott said the first step is education.

“So that all the people who are the frontline people, in say, offices or an emergency room are educated and given the information to heighten their awareness to ask the right travel history to make sure that they identify somebody that’s possibly from a region in Africa where the disease is present so we identify people right away.”

Eve Barnkert, Director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology at Ellis Medicine in Schenectady, said medical staff would determine if a patient has a fever and if he or she had traveled to West Africa within the past 21 days of symptoms.

“So if the answer to both of those questions is ‘yes’ that is when our staff have been educated to call Schenectady County Public Health Department first. If some reason they cannot get in touch with them, then they would proceed to call DOH.”

Isolation of the patient is important. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, including blood, saliva, and urine.

State health officials would determine whether or not a patient is infected through a 4 ml blood test.

Bankert said the hospital is in regular communication with the CDC to receive updates on the virus.

She said Ellis is equipped to handle a case, although because there is no available cure, the hospital would focus on supportive care.

“Focus on hydrating the patient, balancing their electrolytes, maintaining their oxygen status, maintaining their blood pressure, things like that. And this is how we differ from health care in Africa, in that we can do all these things.”

Laurence E. Kelly, CEO of Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville, said although the hospital is located in a relatively rural area, many tourists travel through the Southern Adirondack region during the fall. He said emergency room staff are ready.

“In our computer system there’s a question that’s always asked of what you travel history’s been in the last month. But that’s really emphasized now because these people could be coming from anywhere, and lots of them do come up from New York City and from other urban areas.”

McDermott is also confident in his hospital’s ability to deal with any potential cases.

“We’re not going to have a situation in the United States like we have in Africa right now, so I think we’re well prepared in the United States and in Glens Falls, here, to address the problem should it happen.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Albert DeMaria of Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health says Friday Massachusetts hospitals should err on the side of caution, but several suspicious cases investigated in the state recently were ruled out as being Ebola.