Local officials discuss Ebola response and preparedness


City, school and county governmental entities on Tuesday gathered at Van Horn Convention Center to learn how Culberson County will handle a potential Ebola crisis.

Over the last few weeks, the deadly virus that has killed thousands in West Africa has received a great deal of attention in the media, especially after the death of an Ebola-infected patient at a Dallas hospital.

Since then, national leaders from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have collaborated to find a methodical and unified response to controlling Ebola in the U.S. following the disastrous results at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The few patients who did contract the Ebola virus after returning to the United States from West Africa have all received extraordinary care at NIH, Emory University Medical Center and at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.

Lt. Daniel John (DJ) Cedillos, a 23-year veteran as an EMT and fire medical training specialist, told the Advocate that many questions were raised during the informational session on Tuesday to ensure that all local governmental entities will be prepared about recognizing the signs of dealing with a potential Ebola patient in Van Horn.

“Our whole intent behind our session on Tuesday was to discuss how prepared our city and county officials are prepared for Ebola,” Mr. Cedillos said. “We also talked about the type of protective equipment that our first responders should be wearing, and how to put it on.”

Mr. Cedillos said that the chances of an Ebola-infected person showing up in Van Horn are “extremely low” because of how the virus is transmitted. He explained that first responders have been carefully trained and tested on the initial screening process that includes a series of questions aimed at quickly detecting whether a person may have been exposed to Ebola or whether the symptoms are flu-related.

The first questions that a person suspected of potentially having Ebola would be: Have you traveled to West African countries such Liberia and Sierra Leon? If so, did you have contact with a person that is known to have the Ebola virus?

As low-tech and simple as these questions may seem, they are the first line of defense in the procedures that first responders will use to address a potential Ebola patient. The questions are significant because if the answers are in the affirmative, it will send an immediate red flag to first responders that they must dress in the haz-mat suits that have been shown repeatedly on TV.

One of the possibilities Mr. Cedillos mentioned as a scenario for an Ebola patient arriving in Van Horn would be a Greyhound passenger stopping in Van Horn and feeling ill. Mr. Cedillos said if the patient called 911 complaining of unexplained hemorrhaging and a temperature of more than 101.4, it would be an immediate sign that EMS might be dealing with more than a simple flu virus.

At this point, Culberson Hospital personnel would be on full alert as would be the EMT team, and now a plan would have to be devised as to how to handle the situation if the patient answers yes to the questions mentioned in the screening process. Decisions would have to be made about whether to isolate the entire bus and its passengers and how best to get these passengers to the nearest treating hospital for Ebola.

In Texas, Mr. Cedillos said, the only two treating hospitals for Ebola are in Dallas and in Galveston. “It’s good to have these discussions,” said Mr. Cedillos. “All we can do is prepare.”



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