Hospitals prepared in unlikely event of Ebola on the North Fork

Area hospitals are equipped and ready to act should a patient needing to be treated for the Ebola virus walk through their doors. 

“We can handle these patients and we can handle them safely,” said Pat McArdle, who handles infection control prevention for Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Any hospital that can isolate a patient can appropriately manage an Ebola patient’s care under Centers for Disease Control guidelines, said Dr. Robert Walsh an infectious disease specialist at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport.

“You follow your standard procedures,” he explained, adding that those procedures include separating the patient into a single person isolation room and utilizing protective gear from head-to-toe, among other controls.

Those suffering from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are dealing with the deadliest strain of the virus, which is transmitted through contact with blood or bodily fluids. Symptoms start to appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure and include fever, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and abnormal bleeding.

The virus has killed more than 930 people and infected more than 1,700 since March in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia, according to CDC officials.

Tom Frieden, the head of the CDC said in a press release Friday that “it is certainly possible that we could have ill people in the U.S. who develop Ebola after having been exposed elsewhere.”

“We are all connected and inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others who go from these three countries,” he said, noting that CDC officials are “confident there will not be a large Ebola outbreak in the US.”

With all eyes on the outbreak, Ms. McArdle said emergency department officials at PBMC are educating themselves on what symptoms to look for, what questions to ask, and the protective measures to take should a patient fit the criteria.

Luckily, both local experts said the likelihood North Fork healthcare providers would need to use these measures is very low.

“It is so rare,” Dr. Walsh said. “It would probably have to be someone who has a relative in that area who came to visit. I am not that concerned about it happening here. You would have more a chance of that happening in the New York City area.”

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