HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Huntsville Hospital officials are being proactive about Ebola as concerns grow nationwide.
There are only a handful of confirmed Ebola cases in the US, although, the outbreak in Africa has meant widespread transmission in three countries.
Hospital officials remind us the disease is spread through blood and body fluid contact with a person who is showing symptoms. Cases in the US have been deemed "unlikely," but Huntsville Hospital has a plan in case this makes its way to our area.
That plan involves recognizing symptoms and reacting appropriately, per hospital and Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines.
Those symptoms include fever greater than 101.5, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, unexplained bleeding or bruising, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
If a patient matching the symptoms arrives on-premises, supervisors at the hospital should be alerted, along with Alabama health agencies. Then they will be further screened and anyone they came to the hospital with will be put in isolation at a tent in the ER parking lot.
If the patient is suspected to have Ebola, or any other infectious disease, nurses will use a portable isolation unit to take them inside the hospital and into their room to be quarantined. The portable units zip up around the patient, with pumps to push fresh air inside. This way, the risk of contamination is reduced during transport.
"[This is] to make sure we don't take anything from patient to patient, or from ourselves to a coworker," said registered nurse Stacy Langford.
Hospital staff are also mandated to wear protective clothing to stop the spread of the disease, including gloves, a fluid resistant or impermeable gown, and face and eye protection at minimum.
Director of Emergency Management Jim Goins told WHNT News 19 the hospital has these procedures in place, but they also follow CDC guidelines.
After the Dallas hospital contamination, we asked him if he felt confident the staff at Huntsville could be safe handling the infectious disease.
"We [at the ER] would likely be first to [treat one of these patients,] he said, "We are going back and doing a lot of re-education with our staff. Training... because they don't see [things like Ebola] every day."
The patients are to be kept in a room alone, and equipment will be used only by that patient. The room and equipment will be disinfected and cleaned.
"It's helpful to know we do have a plan," said Langford. "We aren't just waiting until it happens."