Pennsylvania officials say ‘new level of care needed with Ebola’
Pennsylvania officials said Thursday at a seminar in Gibsonia that they continue to prepare for the possibility of an Ebola patient ending up in the state.
Dr. Carrie DeLone, Physician General of Pennsylvania, told an audience at St. Barnabas Health System that there are about 130 people the state continues to monitor who have traveled in the affected areas of West Africa: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and now Mali. She said the state is working on a project that would bring some hospitals in the state up to the same ability to treat patients as others in the United States.
“We’ve learned a lot,” DeLone said, referring to mistakes made in the care of Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in Dallas after being misdiagnosed in the early stages of disease. “We’ve learned that there’s a new level of care needed with Ebola.”
There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Pennsylvania, and none of the people being monitored are in Allegheny County, said Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department. She said all emergency rooms in the county are prepared to take care of an Ebola patient for 72 hours, which gives public health officials enough time to confirm infection. Any patient would likely be sent at that point to one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s four Ebola designated medical centers.
DeLone said the state is still trying to figure out a few pieces of the Ebola puzzle, including how to manage sewage and waste associated with Ebola. During Duncan’s treatment, Texas state officials had trouble finding a place to take the household waste associated with his care.
The seminar featured Amy Hartman, a University of Pittsburgh virologist who has studied Ebola. Hartman was supposed to travel to West Africa several weeks ago to conduct fieldwork and to help with the containment effort, but said she did not go because of concerns over being quarantined upon return. At the time, a nurse from Maine was quarantined in New Jersey despite having no symptoms and eventually challenged and won in court her isolation protocol in Maine “I’m not the only person who was willing to go ,” she said.
Part of the presentation demonstrated how difficult it is to get Ebola.
Dr. Ron Voorhees, of the graduate schools of public health at the University of Pittsburgh, stood about a foor away from Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and pretended to be sick. He said even at that proximity it would be very difficult to pass Ebola on, unless he was symptomatic.
The outbreak has claimed about 5,400 lives, according to the CDC. Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at UPMC said the key to stopping issues in the U.S. is stopping Ebola in West Africa.
“I think we have to be prepared for infected travelers,” he said. “This panic in the United States really doesn’t need to be occurring.”