News & Opinion » News

Ebola: Not worried, but getting ready


Strong Memorial Hospital is well prepared to both identify a patient infected with the Ebola virus and to provide treatment, says Dr. Michael Kamali, chair of the University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Emergency Medicine.

"Much of our direction is coming from both the Centers for Disease Control as well our internal folks — our disaster planning, infectious diseases, emergency room, and ICU staffs," he says. "A pretty large group of people are involved in this."

Strong is one of eight hospitals in New York recently designated by state officials as hubs in the event of an Ebola outbreak in this region.

Kamali says that the hospital's staff is almost always in some type of training mode to prepare for expected and unexpected medical traumas.

"There really has been a lot of training within the hospital for this, but there's also been routine training that we do for disaster planning and handling hazardous materials and working with that kind of exposure," he says. "And we're expanding our training."

Kamali says that people who come into the emergency room or the hospital seeking care for a flu-like illness undergo a full screening process.

"But at this point, there would be added screening," he says. "'Have you been to the endemic areas of Africa? Or have you had any exposure to an Ebola patient?'"

Kamali says that directions from the CDC regarding Ebola are updated almost daily.

Americans were told by government and health care officials that an outbreak of Ebola in the US was unlikely. But as the first case appeared in a Dallas, Texas, hospital a few weeks ago, there's been a heightened national response.

According to the CDC, the Ebola virus is not spread through the air. The virus is spread through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids, such as vomit, feces, urine, blood, saliva, and tears. The infected person is contagious when they are showing symptoms such as high fever and vomiting. They become more contagious as the disease quickly progresses.

Health officials have stressed the importance of following specific protocols when caring for Ebola-infected patients, which is why training has become so important.

"To some extent it is similar to training for chemical and biological warfare," Kamali says. "The big concern is cross contamination and exposure. It means getting the patient into isolation, personal protective equipment and gear for our staff so they can safely care for the patient, and having the right space within the institution, which we have."