Culberson Hospital prepares for potential Ebola cases

BY JUDY BLAZEK

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “The likelihood of contracting Ebola is extremely low unless a person has direct unprotected contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola.”  

However, with the first case of Ebola on U.S. soil reported in Dallas, Culberson Hospital is taking steps to assess the potential for Ebola among any patient who comes to the hospital emergency department or clinic with flu-like symptoms AND has also traveled to West Africa, including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, where the Ebola virus has been reported by the World Health Organization within 21 days of the onset of symptoms OR has come into direct contact someone who is sick with Ebola.

“Fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and lack of appetite and, in some cases, bleeding,” are the primary symptoms the providers at Culberson Hospital are watching for,” said Albert Friday, M.D., hospital chief of staff.  “But the community needs to be aware that many of these symptoms are also common flu symptoms.  The potential for Ebola becomes a concern only if someone has these symptoms and has ALSO been exposed to the Ebola virus.”  

Persons who come to the emergency department at the hospital or to the clinic with these symptoms will be asked if they have recently traveled to West Africa or if they have had contact with anyone who has recently traveled to a West African nation.  “If the patient answers yes, then the next step will be to isolate that patient and ensure health workers are adequately protected,” noted Dr. Friday. 

This means not only will hospital staff interacting with the patient don masks, gloves and other protective gear, the patient will also be given a mask to wear, especially if presenting with a cough that could disseminate the virus.  

“Culberson Hospital also has an isolation room that will allow us to quarantine a patient prior to transfer,” said Jared Chanski, hospital administrator.  “The isolation room has negative air pressure which prevents the spread of airborne contaminants protecting patient and staff safety,” he continued. 

“Hospital staff will take all steps to properly diagnose and provide preliminary treatment working in conjunction with the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Regional Advisory Council for Trauma and Emergency Management and the CDC,” reported Karla Morrow, FNP.  

“These agencies are giving us frequent updates and guidelines for treatment and reporting.  While we do not anticipate that any actual Ebola exposed patients will present to our hospital or clinic, we are preparing if it should happen.”

“Please keep in mind that that the risk of exposure in our area is extremely low, so there is no need for the general public to panic,” cautioned Dr. Friday. 

Ms. Morrow reminds us that the best defense to prevent infections is good old-fashioned hand washing.  “The use of soap and water with friction for 15–20 seconds is considered to be the gold standard.  Also, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used, if no soap and water is available. Please wash your hands before meals, after using the restroom, or if visibly soiled.”