Local hospitals prepare for Ebola

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LEWISTON — Health and government officials say there’s no reason to panic now that the U.S. has seen its first Ebola death.

But a little preparation couldn’t hurt.

Locally, hospitals and others are bracing for Ebola while hoping to never see a case of it. In Lewiston, officials from Central Maine Medical Center released a statement on the virus and their preparations for it.

“Central Maine Healthcare already has in place protocols for managing potential infectious disease patients,” according to the statement. “An example of this is the management of patients who present in the Emergency Department showing symptoms that might indicate the presence of a tuberculosis infection.

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“CMHC has developed and circulated an Ebola Update summarizing: the situation involving the Ebola patient in Dallas, Texas; providing clinical background about the disease, including signs and symptoms; and outlines in detail how possible Ebola patients should be managed.”

An infectious disease expert working with the hospital has advised CMMC on key elements in managing the disease:

* Take a comprehensive patient history that includes questions about travel and possible exposure to the disease;

* Follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing protocols;

* Place potentially infected patients in isolation to prevent spread of disease.

Any suspected case of the disease, a CMMC official said, would immediately result in communications with both the Maine and federal Centers for Disease Control. Central Maine Healthcare has several hospitals around the state, including those in Bridgton and Rumford.

At St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, Community Relations Manager Jennifer Radel said the hospital has written policies and procedures for dealing with infectious diseases such as Ebola. Additionally, Radel said, an Ebola screening tool kit from the CDC has been distributed to clinical staff.

There have been no reports of Ebola in Maine, although the state has had minor involvement with the disease. On Monday, according to news sources, a plane carrying an afflicted photojournalist landed at the Bangor airport to refuel. The newsman, an American, contracted the disease while covering the story in Liberia, officials said.

That patient has since been flown to an isolation unit in Nebraska. He was the second Ebola patient to make a stop in Bangor since August.

In Lewiston, with its robust immigrant population, city officials say that to the best of their knowledge, no immigrants have come here recently from Ebola-ravaged regions of West Africa.

Assistant City Manager Phil Nadeau said the city is able to track, back to 2004, immigrants who have moved to Lewiston. Researching the matter on Thursday, Nadeau said he found no evidence that any had come from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone.

He did include a caveat.

“It’s all self-reported, to some degree,” Nadeau said. “And we can’t account for people who didn’t come through City Hall for some kind of service, or at least for General Assistance.”

mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

LEWISTON — Mainers do not seem panicked by reports of the hemorrhagic-fever illness Ebola of which a Texas victim died Wednesday.

Some locals said they are washing their hands more, using hand sanitizer and avoiding crowds wherever possible. These procedures, they said, will help ward off colds and the common flu as well as more deadly diseases like Ebola, which thrives in hotter climates.

A Lewiston man said he had canceled a planned trip to Dallas, Texas, the epicenter of Ebola in the U.S. An Auburn woman with a nursing background said she is reading all she can about the latest Ebola news, trying to stay as informed as possible to be prepared.

Preparation experts are advising that precautions can be taken, even up here in the north, on the chance that Ebola spreads out of Texas.

Daisy Luther, who operates The Organic Prepper, suggests that people gather a few supplies even if the chance of Ebola coming here seems slim.

“We know enough that we realize we need a plan,” Luther wrote. “We need a step-by-step course of action to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”

In addition to frequent hand-washing and crowd avoidance, Luther suggested a few medical supplies: N95 or N100 face masks, Nitrile gloves, Tyvek suits and safety goggles

“Go ahead and get these ordered,” Luther wrote, “because if things get bad, this will allow you a measure of protection if for some reason you must leave the safety of your home. These will be the first things that run out in the event of a pandemic event.”

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