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NorthShore Preparing to Handle Potential Ebola Cases

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 10:09 AM

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. 

There 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.