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Epidemiologist: State's hospitals can identify, isolate Ebola cases

nurse_surgery_rgbACROSS MISSISSIPPI — State health officials say Mississippi hospitals will be capable of handling any Ebola cases that may arise.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs said some hospitals are updating procedures based on information provided by the state Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But even now as updates are ongoing, Dobbs said Mississippi hospitals “are able to identify and isolate any cases that do occur and we have referral centers throughout the state that can provide long-term treatment.”

» READ MORE: You say “Obama”, I say “Ebola”

Some hospitals — or group of hospitals — are augmenting that information with their own plans. Singing River Health System spokesman Richard Lucas says the Pascagoula-based hospital and others along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are regularly meeting on local procedures to put in place.

Dobbs said health officials have been talking with hospitals across the state since August. Dobbs also has been talking with media outlets across the state about Ebola.

“It is a fluid situation,” he said. “Every hospital needs to be able to identify and isolate individuals who may come in and determine those who need long-term treatment and — while it may not be necessary in all cases — to shift them to other facilities with bio-containment units.”

Still, Dobbs said there are factors to consider — Mississippi is not a travel hub and there isn’t a large West African population.

“We are a lower risk but we’re not at no risk. If someone walks to one of our hospitals, we want to be prepared,” he said.

He said while the risk is low, Mississippi hospitals are equipped to handle Ebola.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said the agency is bolstering training nationwide on how to respond to an Ebola case. The CDC says Ebola isn’t contagious until symptoms appear. Ebola isn’t spread through the air like the flu; people catch it by direct contact with a sick person’s bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit.

Dr. Skip Nolan, head of the infectious diseases department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said UMMC is updating its Ebola protocol at the urging of the CDC. He said every department at the large teaching hospital is involved in updating its procedures.

Nolan said staff will also have additional training.

Baptist Memorial Health Care operates five hospitals in north Mississippi. They are located in Booneville, New Albany, Oxford, Southaven or Columbus.

Dr. Mark Swanson, vice president and chief medical officer for Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Care, said local hospitals are ready.




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