An Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is highly unlikely thanks to a highly developed public health infrastructure and ready access to protective medical equipment, says Dr. Carrie DeLone, Pennsylvania physician general.
To catch sick patients early, Ebola quarantine centers have been set up at the Philadelphia airport and 19 other airports across the country, DeLone said.
“These are stations where a patient who is traveling from abroad and is found to be ill and has a suspicious illness can be taken and evaluated and then transported safely to a facility that can evaluate them and treat them,” DeLone said.
DeLone said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine stations existed before the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but recently flight attendants and airport staff received additional training to spot the disease.
“They are being made aware of Ebola, they are being trained to be look for specific symptoms, we talk about fever, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea,” DeLone said.
The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, and is unlikely to be passed through casual contact. Health care workers are often exposed when caring for infected patients in hot spots.
In the U.S., DeLone said hospital workers are equipped with masks, gowns and respirators that would help prevent the spread of the virus from patient to caregiver.
Hospitals have been receiving outbreak and preparedness information from the CDC and local authorities. Experts say preparing for Ebola cases is similar to preparing for a potential appearance of any infectious disease.
“That is something that happens on a regular basis,” said Mark Ross, head of emergency preparedness in the Southeast region for the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.
“Consistent checking of personal protective equipment, checking of the isolation rooms to make sure that the negative pressure that makes them isolation rooms is working appropriately, and then staff education. These are all ongoing processes,” Ross said.
New World Health Organization numbers released Monday show climbing death tolls in West Africa. Nearly 900 people have died from Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria since an unprecedented outbreak started early this year.
The second American infected with Ebola is expected back in the U.S. for treatment Tuesday.
The missionary will join an American doctor already evacuated from Liberia; both will be kept in isolation in Atlanta.