Lakeshore Report

Area Hospital Officials Say They’re Ready for Ebola

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By: Hilary Powell

October 23, 2014— At Methodist Southlake Hospital in Merrillville, Ind., new signs hang, warning residents to watch, but not worry, about the latest outbreak of Ebola virus.

“If somebody comes into our hospital, we have signs available posted, please notify one of our staff if you’ve recently visited one of those countries or had contact with somebody with this disease,” Says Thomas Sleweon, director of infection control at Methodist. “Once that information is passed onto us then we will start to take steps including isolation.”

Sleweon says region health officials have been tracking the outbreak since its origins in West Africa in December 2013. Even before the first travel-associated United States case of Ebola was diagnosed last month in a person who traveled to Dallas from West Africa, Sleweon says Methodist area hospitals, including the Gary campus, have put in place guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If a patient with Ebola were to ever show up on our doorsteps we would be prepared to uh make sure that a patient gets the best possible care possible but at the same time and protect our staff and other patients and visitors to the hospital,” he says.

He also says fighting myth with fact is a way to empower residents to protect themselves against Ebola, like knowing the way to contract the disease: through direct contact, not through air, water or food.

“When I say secretions, I mean all kinds of bodily secretions including blood stool urine, sweat,” he says. “It is not necessary to wear a mask if you are traveling anywhere within the united states or even internationally. The virus is not spread through uh that kind of casual contact.”

Knowing that recognizing the symptoms can curb the spread of panic and pandemic.

“Remember that as long as that person’s not showing symptoms then he cannot pass it on to anyone else,” Sleweon says.

This week, O’Hare airlines began screening passengers for fever on a thermal scanner when arriving from guinea Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Only 150 passengers per day from those countries, risk is very small,” the doctor says.

Sleweon says passengers are checked using CDC guidelines, including contact tracing or finding everyone who comes in direct contact with a sick Ebola patient.

Doctors watch for symptoms of sickness for twenty one days.
He says officials are in constant contact with the CDC to get the latest training on the evolving threat.

“These infections do not know any borders,” Sleweon says. “They do get across from Africa to Europe to United States; we’ve had cases in three continents. Not only is it a moral responsibility of the United States but it’s also the right thing to do because we’re also at risk.”

Officials reiterate that no cases have been suspected or reported in Indiana.

CDC Infographic: Recognizing Ebola Symptoms

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