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Key Facts on Ebola Virus Preparations in Pennsylvania Hospitals

Pennsylvania hospitals are prepared to screen for and safely and quickly isolate Ebola cases. Every Pennsylvania hospital is prepared to:

  • Screen patients for Ebola symptoms and travel history
  • Isolate a patient with possible exposure to Ebola
  • Protect the safety of caregivers and staff by providing appropriate information and personal protection equipment (PPE)
  • Provide any emergency care needed to stabilize a patient isolated due to possible Ebola exposure
  • Contact local and state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine plans for testing, and if the case is confirmed, care.

Every hospital has plans, protocols, and appropriate supplies and equipment in place to care for patients with serious infectious diseases. All clinical staff are trained in standard infection control procedures.

The CDC has rapid response teams that will help the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and hospitals plan the care for likely or confirmed cases of Ebola.

Members of this team could be on the ground within a few hours at any hospital that receives a patient strongly suspected of having Ebola. This team will:

  • Provide in-person, expert technical assistance and support regarding infection control, health care safety, contact tracing, public education, and other issues
  • Advise as to the best facility for treating the patient, such as one of the nation’s four specialized facilities for treating infectious disease

Hospitals are doing everything possible to protect staff, patients, and their communities from the threat of Ebola.

To protect the safety of caregivers, hospitals are following the latest CDC guidance on the use of PPE, including the use of a buddy system and designated areas for putting on and taking off PPE.

Hospitals continue to conduct frequent drills with front-line staff, doctors, nurses, and any other staff as appropriate, on proper procedures for putting on and taking off personal protective equipment.

Hospitals are making sure all appropriate staff know how to safely and quickly isolate any patient that may have been exposed to Ebola. In particular, additional guidelines for emergency departments have recently been issued by the CDC.

The CDC, DOH, and local health departments are leading the response to the threat of Ebola in the U.S. and Pennsylvania.

The CDC has issued extensive guidance for hospitals and health care organizations and continues to hold many conference calls to make sure the hospitals are prepared to follow guidance and protocols.

DOH has issued guidance for hospital and other health care settings and is holding conference calls for hospitals in regions across the state.

Hospitals are working with local county health departments to protect the safety of their communities.

Hospitals are an important part of Pennsylvania’s readiness to respond to the threat of Ebola. Hospitals take this responsibility very seriously and are following public health guidance.

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) has been providing member hospitals with regular updates and information about the Ebola virus from federal and state officials and professional organizations. HAP will continue to provide members with information as appropriate.

This is the first time our nation has dealt with Ebola. As a result, national, state, and local public health protocols are evolving as we learn more each day. Hospitals are:

  • Pulling together and learning from our collective experience
  • Continually assessing our approaches
  • Adapting to new CDC, DOH, and local public health guidance and protocols as they become available

The general public should have very little concern that an Ebola outbreak will occur in the U.S.

To date, only two people have been infected with the Ebola virus on U.S. soil. These two nurses were infected while caring for the first U.S. Ebola patient, who contracted the virus while in West Africa. Thankfully, both nurses monitored themselves for any signs of Ebola, quickly sought help when symptoms appeared, were isolated and treated, and now have been declared virus free.

It is important to remember that a person infected with the Ebola virus is not contagious until symptoms appear. According to the CDC, the virus is spread only through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who has been infected and only after they begin to show symptoms. It is not spread through the air.

An important step everyone can take is to get a flu shot since the flu has many of the same symptoms as early symptoms of Ebola, such as fever and body aches.

Updated 10/24/14

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