NorthShore Preparing to Handle Potential Ebola Cases

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 10:09 AM comments (0)

UPDATE 10/21/2014: The CDC issues new guidelines concerning safety protocols and personal safety equipment for U.S. healthcare workers treating patients with Ebola. New guidelines can be read in full on the CDC website here

UPDATE 10/17/2014: The Illinois Department of Public Health has set up a 24-hour hotline to answer questions about Ebola. The number is 800-889-3931. 

UPDATE 10/15/2014: After two recent secondary infections of healthcare workers in Dallas, NorthShore is taking further action to ensure the safety of our valued hospital staff, patients and visitors, including:

  1. Creating training programs for educating healthcare workers on the safe management of patients with suspected/confirmed Ebola. The training courses will include intensive education and testing to ensure hospital staff is appropriately trained on donning and removing personal protective equipment. 
  2. All triage emergency department staff, as well as Medical Group office staff and call center staff, will be trained on the appropriate questions and screening criteria for patients presenting with Ebola-like symptoms. 

NorthShore-PhysicianThere have been no cases of Ebola in Illinois. For the latest information on Ebola in the US and West Africa, please visit the CDC website here

Becky Smith, MD, Chief Hospital Epidemiologist and attending in Infectious Diseases at NorthShore, explains how we have prepared for high risk infections like Ebola in our hospital emergency departments and medical group offices in order to minimize the risk of the spread of the disease to our patients and staff:

After recording the patient’s name and date of birth, there are two important questions that must be asked prior to suspecting Ebola:

  1. In the last 24 hours, have you had a fever of 101.5 or above?
  2. Have you traveled to/from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria or Sierra Leone within the last 21 days?

If you can answer “no” to either question, there is no reason to believe you have Ebola. You can be evaluated by your doctor in the usual manner because you do not have Ebola.

In the unlikely event that a patient in the Chicago area answers “yes” to both questions, NorthShore already has plans in place to handle this high-risk infection:

  • NorthShore Evanston Hospital is our preferred hospital for evaluation and management of suspected Ebola patients.
  • This patient will be immediately placed in an isolation room. This placement is intended to minimize the number of people who will come in contact with the patient. However, the disease is not airborne. 
  • All medical professionals—nurses, physicians, assistants—who come in contact with the patient will be wearing full-coverage, impermeable gowns, gloves and a face mask with shield. 
  • Infection Control will be notified immediately and involved at every point of the patient’s care.
  • Infection Control will notify Public Health. 
  • All equipment used during the patient’s care will be kept in the isolation room.
  • A log of all medical professionals who come into contact with the patient will be kept updated at every point during the patient’s care. 

With the help of NorthShore’s Infection Control department, our community is working diligently to prepare for any suspected case of Ebola or other high-risk infectious disease, and prevent its spread. 


Q&A: Ebola Virus

Thursday, August 07, 2014 12:28 PM comments (0)

Dr. ThomsonRichard (Tom) Thomson, PhD, Director of the Microbiology Laboratory and Division Head of Clinical Pathology at NorthShore, provides answers to some common questions regarding the Ebola virus: 

How is it transmitted?
It is not known to be airborne. Ebola is passed through direct contact with bodily fluids and specimens from patients infected with the virus. So it is family, caretakers and healthcare workers with close contact to an infected person who face the greatest risk if they don’t take the right precautions. 

Can you contract Ebola from contact with someone who does not exhibit any symptoms? 
No. An individual who is infected but not exhibiting symptoms is not contagious. If a person is symptomatic, he or she can spread the virus but only through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood. So, as an example, if you were sitting next to someone on a plane who developed symptoms of Ebola a week or 10 days later, you were not at risk for infection because they were asymptomatic at the time.  

How are American healthcare workers being infected with the virus?
Unfortunately, the ability of healthcare workers in Africa to protect themselves is different from the ability of healthcare workers to protect themselves in the United States. They do not have the facilities that we have here in this country. In the U.S., we have the facilities and training to handle many different infections of various risks. And while Ebola presents one of the greatest risks to healthcare workers, we have procedures in place that will be used to handle any Ebola patients who enter the country. 

How is the spread of the virus to the United States being prevented?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have specific procedures in place to follow if they feel that someone on a plane is symptomatic. That person would arrive in the United States and be put immediately in the appropriate containment in one of our hospitals. They also have screening efforts ongoing in West Africa to prevent symptomatic persons from getting on planes. By following those procedures, the spread of the virus into the United States is very unlikely. 

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