Is Corvallis Prepared to Deal With Ebola?

By Kirsten Allen

ebolaThe recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has caused a panic across the globe Though cases outside of Africa have been rare, there have been quarantine and contamination issues. Recently, a man who had been infected with the virus died in Dallas, Texas, and now two of the health care workers that had been treating him have also contracted the disease. Despite the fears of many citizens, health officials continue to assure the public we should not be concerned about an outbreak in the United States. Our health facilities are more modernized and able to contain a pandemic virus, they say.  Is it true?  How would an outbreak in Corvallis unfold?

In a vote of confidence for our local facilities and preparedness, Governor Kitzhaber announced this past week that Samaritan would be one of 6 health systems in Oregon that would serve as a referral hospital should an Ebola occurrence or outbreak unfold here. CEO of Samaritan Health, Larry Mullins, confirmed in a recent press conference, that he had health care workers training with CDC protocols and gear so they would be ready.   

We contacted Samaritan Health for more details of their facility preparedness locally, and asked about the staff and facilities when it comes to dealing with, and preventing the spread of, a pandemic virus. Dr. William Muth, infectious disease specialist, and public relations coordinator Janelle Iverson provided answers.

With the recent confirmed cases in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control has begun to offer guidance on how to approach exposure with a patient carrying the virus. Muth stated that new recommendations regarding personal protective equipment have been made, and while some of that equipment is readily available, there is some gear that is either needed in greater quantities, or the hospital does not have at all. “With a disease like Ebola, it is important to be able to isolate the patient and cover the entire body, including mouth, nose, and eyes, with protective gear,” Muth added.

The Samaritan Health staff is being educated on procedures, recognition, and containment of Ebola, especially in terms of patients who were recently traveling. According to Muth, the staff is doing their best to prepare for a possible Ebola case, and investigating where to best care for a patient, with special consideration of isolation and administering appropriate care. An isolation room in the ER is the most likely place a patient would be held. Good Sam is a regional hospital, and while there are no facilities specifically designated for an outbreak, Muth believes that standard hospital protocol would be sufficient to prevent an outbreak, and it is equipped to handle patient isolation. “We are a municipal region, and are attempting to coordinate with other regional hospitals in the state of Oregon, as well as with OSU,” he said.

Muth also stated that considerations for containing a disease should be maintained, as this may not be the only time we are faced with these circumstances. He hopes to continue to prepare logistically, as well as educationally, for a potential pandemic.

In the event there was a confirmed case in Corvallis, Iverson stated that federal privacy laws prohibit the disclosure of a patient’s name and information, but the case would be reported to Public Health.

It appears that Corvallis Good Sam has been mobilizing to take preventative measures, with help from the CDC, which is continuously providing new information and protocol on how to successfully combat an outbreak. They also seem aware of what they do not have yet, so look for updates in future issues.

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