Duke would be ready for Ebola case
Although the Ebola virus outbreak is happening half a world away, health officials here are monitoring its spread daily and have plans in place to deal with patients who have contracted it.
“If someone comes to us with symptoms consistent with Ebola, we have devised a plan,” Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious-disease specialist at Duke Medical Center, said this week.
The first step would be to isolate the patient.
“From a hospital point of view, it’s not hard to isolate someone with Ebola,” Wolfe said. “In a big place like this (Duke), you can do a good job of getting them out of the way of other patients and into isolation.”
Hospital officials have “sat down and devised a plan” in case someone does get sent to Duke with the virus, Wolfe said.
“Part of it is to adequately protect your staff and the other people in the building, be they patients or family,” Wolfe said. “It’s almost easier than some other infections that have caused international concern, like H1N1 (flu), because this is not an airborne infection. It’s only transmittable by fluids.”
There is no proven treatment for Ebola, but the focus would be on managing symptoms -- including fluid loss and diarrhea -- and let the body heal itself, he said.
“It’s very unlikely that Duke will see someone with Ebola,” Wolfe said. “There are situations where people may present with early symptoms consistent with the illness, but there is nothing specific about Ebola. If you’re presenting with fever, chills and nausea, there’s a list of other things that are far more common, ranging from malaria to food poisoning to the flu that would need to be evaluated.”
Ebola has killed more than 1,000 people and sickened nearly 2,000 in the current West African outbreak that includes Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. Many of the dead are health workers.
The Centers for Disease Control has recommended travelers stay away from those countries.
“Outside of those places, there are no travel restrictions,” Wolfe said. “But the restrictions can vary from week to week.”
For general information about Ebola, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.