Stanford Medical Center and Palo Alto Medical Foundation are among medical facilities nationwide increasing Ebola preparedness as federal health officials urge the nation's hospitals to "think Ebola."
The amped-up efforts to train health care workers on how to treat patients infected with Ebola comes days after Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, became the first person to contract the disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pham provided care for Thomas Eric Duncan, who was the first person to die from Ebola in the nation after traveling to the U.S. from West Africa. A second nurse who treated Duncan has been diagnosed with the deadly disease on Wednesday.
There have been no documented cases of Ebola in Palo Alto or in other U.S. cities outside the Dallas area, according to the CDC.
Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Health Care, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children's Health, "continually prepares to manage cases of infectious disease, including Ebola Virus Disease," said spokesman James Larkin in an email.
"Stanford Medicine follows protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and conducts regular training and preparedness drills to assure our readiness to respond," Larkin said.
CDC guidelines for safe and appropriate Ebola screening and patient care include placing an infected patient in a single-patient room with a private bathroom with the door closed; ensuring people who come into contact with the patient wear gloves, fluid resistant or impermeable gowns, goggles and face masks; dedicating medical equipment for patient care; and cleaning and disinfecting non-dedicated, non-disposable equipment used for patient care, according to its website.
Larkin added that the hospital has several isolation rooms designed to contain biohazards like Ebola.
Palo Alto Medical Foundation has increased staff training to identify potential infection cases and teach health care workers how to properly use protective equipment, said Dr. Charles Weiss, head of the infectious diseases committee at PAMF, which has a location in Palo Alto.
Weiss said when a patient comes in seeking treatment for a sudden illness, staff members should ask two "golden questions": "Do you have chills and fever?" and "Have you traveled to West Africa in the past 21 days?"
"Half of the battle is identifying possible cases of Ebola," he said.
PAMF has also started performing drills in which employees pose as patients to test whether the new protocols are effective.
The health care organization has also upgraded infection-control supplies and protective equipment to "reflect the highly infectious nature of the deadly disease," Weiss said.
Weiss emphasized that although Ebola is a serious health concern and people should be vigilant, "it is low risk for the average American."
The California Department of Public Health continues to work with the federal government and medical facilities statewide on staff preparedness and encourages health care workers to follow CDC guidelines on Ebola screening and patient care, said CDPH Director Dr. Ron Chapman during a teleconference with media on the current status of Ebola preparedness in the state.
Chapman added that the Hospital Preparedness Program, a federal program that provides leadership and funding to improve community and hospital preparedness for public health emergencies, has provided funds to the state to prepare local hospitals including providing staff training and Personal Protective Equipment to health care workers who are the most at risk of exposure.
Important components of being prepared are early identification, testing of suspect cases and treating infected patients, said Dr. James Watt, chief of the Division of Communicable Disease Control of the California Department of Public Health.
Symptoms of Ebola
Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is eight to 10 days.
Fever (greater than 38.6 degrees Celsius or 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit)
Abdominal (stomach) pain
Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
How Ebola is transmitted
Direct contact with bodily fluids or through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose or mouth, or by handling soiled clothing or unsterilized medical equipment, including needles and syringes, used by an infected person. It's not possible to catch it through social contact or by simply being in the same room or space. It is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website
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