Ebola preparations: Pearl River County Hospital prepares to treat possible cases, shares information on virus
With the current Ebola epidemic reaching historic numbers in Africa and affecting American citizens in Dallas, a local doctor has offered information on the virus and precautionary tips should a worst-case scenario bring the outbreak any closer to Pearl River County.
Dr. Micelle J. Haydel, Emergency Department Clinical Director of Pearl River County Hospital, explained that Ebola is a virus which spreads when body fluids from an infected person make direct contact with another person’s eyes, mouth or nose, and is not considered to be airborne.
Haydel said that without travelling to a dangerous area or dealing directly with an infected patient, it would be very difficult to contract the virus. She noted that family members of Thomas Eric Duncan, the American who died from Ebola in a Dallas area hospital last week, have not contracted Ebola despite prolonged contact with the infected patient.
Two healthcare workers who treated Duncan have since contracted the virus, but Hayden suspects the odds of infection were greater because the patient was being given intimate care during the worst stages of his illness.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that individuals who have been exposed to the virus take their temperature twice a day and notify their healthcare provider if they develop a fever. Haydel says it is important to call ahead of time so that the hospital can take the necessary precautions to prevent contact with other patients. If for some reason a patient were unable to call ahead, Haydel would recommend that they wear a facemask and wash their hands thoroughly before interacting with any hospital personnel.
Haydel added that the Pearl River County Hospital “absolutely” has an emergency plan in place in the unlikely event of a local infection.
“Arrangements would be made to safely transport the patient to a proper location where quality long-term care and isolation could be provided,” said Haydel.
When asked what the people of Pearl River County could do to protect themselves if a worst-case scenario outbreak were to occur, Haydel advised awareness.
“The one thing we can do is take a look at whether or not we are at risk,” Haydel said. “You are not going to catch Ebola unless you’ve been exposed to it.”
The initial symptoms of Ebola – fever, body aches, headaches – are similar to the symptoms of influenza, and can develop anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Gradually the symptoms become worse and can include vomiting and diarrhea, followed by internal and external bleeding. The World Health Organization estimates the mortality rate of the current outbreak in West Africa to be around 70 percent. Haydel explained how some of the same precautions taken to avoid catching the flu, such as avoiding contact with others, wearing a facemask and consistent, thorough hand washing, would be effective strategies to combat Ebola exposure.
WHO officials suspect the outbreak could worsen in Africa, but Haydel remains confident that America has the infrastructure to prevent an outbreak.
“I firmly believe that the CDC can enact logical and intuitive strategies to contain Ebola and prevent an epidemic in the United States,” Haydel said.