BOUNTIFUL — Davis County residents needn’t worry should a patient present him or herself at either Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton or Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful with ebola symptoms.
Both hospitals, and in fact all the large hospitals statewide, are prepared for that possibility, spokespeople at the two Davis County hospitals say.
“We want to convey to the public that the hospitals and the state of Utah are very prepared,” said Davis Hospital spokesperson Diane Townsend. “We want to maintain a sense of calm that we are prepared and have the procedures and protocols in place.”
It’s not just the hospitals that will be involved should there be a patient with ebola symptoms.
The Davis County Health Department would act as coordinator for health partners involved in the case, from the hospital to the laboratory to the Centers for Disease Control.
“We would be ensuring that everything falls into place,” said Brian Hatch, deputy director of the county health department.
“Another role of ours is education, making sure the right information gets to the right people,” he said.
On the hospital level, “Each protocol provides detailed instructions for caregivers and support staff that are related to various clinical and safety components,” said Bernadette Waldrop, emergency room director at Lakeview.
“These protocols include early identification practices and appropriate notifications, precautions such as patient isolation and infection control measures throughout the hospital. Protocols also provide instructions on the proper cleaning or disposal of potentially contaminated materials,” she said in an email.
“If someone presents at the hospital (Davis Hospital) with ebola symptoms, we have questions we ask of any patient that determine if isolation is warranted,” said Rebecca Holgreen, director of quality and infection prevention and control at Davis Hospital. Among those questions specific to ebola is if the patient has recently returned from West Africa, she said.
Using isolation to contain a disease is nothing new.
“We’ve been isolating tuberculosis patients for a long time,” Hatch said. “We’d use the same protocols and procedures for ebola.”
“The critical element in ebola is that we know where the epidemic is happening,” Hatch said, explaining that if someone has symptoms resembling ebola, the question that needs to be answered is if they have recently been to West Africa.
Both hospitals have isolation units available, should a patient be admitted.
Treating ebola and working with those close to the patient is much different than dealing with such normal diseases such as the flu.
“Ebola is different from the flu because it is only transmitted through blood or other bodily fluids,” Holgreen said, “whereas the flu is more contagious and is transmitted through the air, so other patients in the hospital are in no danger of contacting ebola.”
The Utah Department of Health has developed an Ebola Disease Plan to assist health care providers with identifying and treating patients, controlling the spread of disease, and notifying the public.
Among the roles the Davis County Health Department would take on is to be identifying those who may have been in contact with the ebola patient and tracing the places the patient may have gone during the incubation period, to discover anyone who may have come into contact with the patient, Hatch said.
They will also be the agency to handle the contamination piece, he said, going into the patient’s home or other areas they have been, removing contaminated items and cleaning.
Because of its proximity to Hill AFB, Davis Hospital could be more likely to treat military personnel who have been stationed in West Africa or American ex-patriots. Because of that, the hospital works closely with federal government health officials, Townsend said.
Hospital personnel know that the thought of ebola is scary to Davis County residents and those elsewhere in the state and nation.
Mountainstar Health issued a statement saying that while residents may understandably feel anxious about the possibility of themselves or their loved ones contracting the disease, “They should understand there is a huge difference in the health care settings in West Africa and the United States. Utahns should feel confident in our ability to respond and contain this disease.”
Symptoms of ebola include a fever greater than 101.5 degrees, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure.
The virus is spread through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth, blood or body fluids of an infected person, objects like needles and syringes that have been infected or infected animals.
It is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food, according to the CDC website.