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Health officials put plans in place for Ebola

By David Purtell

david.purtell@salisburypost.com

Health officials continue to stress that the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is extremely low, but local and state agencies, along with healthcare providers, are putting plans in place just in case.

Novant Health has chosen three of its regional medical centers to care for Ebola patients.

The hospitals are Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte and Prince William Medical Center in Virginia, according to a press release from Novant Health.

Patients showing symptoms of Ebola who arrive at any of the system’s other 12 hospitals, including Rowan Medical Center, and test positive for the disease would be transported to one of the three sites designated to treat Ebola. Patients would be treated in isolated units at those facilities.

Falon Nye, a spokeswoman for Novant Health said, “We do have the approved personal protective equipment (for treating Ebola) at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. Right now, across Novant Health, we are laser-focused on drills and trainings for our teams who would be potentially caring for Ebola patients.”

Dr. Tom Zweng, chief medical officer for Novant Health, said in the release, “From a clinical perspective, if an Ebola patient presented themselves to a Novant Health facility today and all processes were followed, our patients and our team members would be safe provided protocols were followed precisely.”

Novant Health is basing its plans on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. According to the CDC, Ebola is only contagious through contact with bodily fluids if the infected person is experiencing symptoms — a fever higher than 101.5 degrees, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea and unexplained blooding or bruising.

According to a prepared statement from the Rowan County Health Department:

• The health department has been working with Novant Health and Rowan County Emergency Services to coordinate a management plan in the event that an Ebola case were to occur in the area.

• If an Ebola case is confirmed in the county, state and local public health professionals would rapidly identify everyone who was potentially exposed and take immediate measures to prevent further spread.

• Since Oct. 7, people who have sought services at the Rowan County Health Department have been asked to provide their travel and exposure history.

• Personal protective kits for emergency personnel are in place if needed. 

• Specific preparedness information for the public is available at www.readyrowan.org.

• Emergency Services is reviewing preparedness and protective healthcare information with personnel and field paramedics.

The virus has killed thousands of people in West Africa. Last week, a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, died in a Dallas hospital after being diagnosed with Ebola. He had recently arrived in America from Liberia, which has been ravaged by the disease. Two of the nurses who cared for Duncan have since been diagnosed with the disease.

For questions about Ebola, call Novant Health at 1-855-251-8808.

The Carolinas Poison Center has an Ebola hotline. The number is 1-800-222-1222, and callers should press “6” for questions about Ebola.

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