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Local healthcare professionals discuss Joplin's plan of action on Ebola

Updated:
The Ebola virus has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa and six cases have now been reported in the United States.

While it is not an airborne virus, local healthcare professionals say isolation and containment are key in preventing its spread.

"If someone comes to our facility with Ebola, we are prepared," said Trish Shuler, Infection Prevention Officer at Freeman Health System.

Shuler has been helping to train staff members on recognizing Ebola symptoms.

"That's what we'd want to do, recognize and isolate the patient for containment purposes at the point of entry," she said.

Mercy Hospital staff members have also been trained to immediately isolate patients who may arrive with possible Ebola symptoms.

"They could stop at our emergency room," said Donna Stokes, Infection Control Coordinator at Mercy Hospital in Joplin.  "They could have that history of exposure and be symptomatic, so we have to prepare ahead of time."

The new Mercy Hospital has 15 airborne isolation rooms specifically designed for treating diseases similar to Ebola.

"The air is dedicated to this room and is filtered through a filtering system to the exterior of the building, versus remaining in the building and going into the corridor," Stokes said.

Stokes says the double doors leading into the room provide an extra barrier.

"This is the best environment that we can provide for patients in those types of situations," she said.

Freeman Health System also has several double-door, negative pressure isolation rooms.

While a negative pressure room is not necessary to cure the virus, it is an extra precaution both hospitals plan to take because Ebola is spread through bodily fluids.

"We are doing this as an extra step so that if the patient does have a procedure that is causing aerosolization of body fluids, they will already be in this environment," Stokes said.

Officials say the higher technology and care available in the US will help prevent the widespread epidemic seen in Africa.

"We have the means to be able to provide the necessary care to contain this virus," Shuler said.

Representatives from both Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital will be attending a statewide meeting on Ebola tomorrow in Jefferson City.
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