Ebola preparations explained by Baylor Scott & White Health representatives

ebola questions

The news that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is currently treating an Ebola patient is causing understandable concern among North Texas residents.

But Baylor Scott & White Health representatives say there is still no reason to panic, as the virus does not spread easily and cannot be transmitted until an infected patient develops symptoms. The BSWH system has had key measures in place for weeks in preparation for a possible Ebola case, so the local case changes little here, representatives said.

“We have a plan in place,” said William Sutker, M.D., medical director of infectious disease and epidemiology for the Baylor Scott & White Health — North Texas division. “We’re using CDC guidance and guidelines for the basis of what we do. We’re equipped to handle a patient if we got one.”

That includes personal protective equipment and isolation rooms available to take care of patients throughout the BSWH system. Employees are also being educated on how to handle potential Ebola patients.

For weeks, system emergency room personnel have been instructed to ask patients who present with fever about their travel history. An additional question will now be added about whether patients have had potential contact with a case of Ebola.

“Nobody needs to panic,” Dr. Sutker said. “Although it’s a contagious illness, it’s not as contagious as flu. You have to come in contact with blood or bodily secretions from someone who is infected” in order to be at risk of contracting the disease.

Cristie Columbus, M.D., is an infectious disease specialist and the assistant medical director for epidemiology and infection control and prevention for Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and Baylor Scott & White Health — North Texas division. She said she is confident that the virus will be contained. Dr. Columbus cited “the resources available within the health care system for rapid patient identification and isolation, and the resources provided for ongoing support and for contact tracing and monitoring by Dallas County Health and Human Services and the CDC.”

Among other key health care resources here that typically are not available in the West African communities that have been overwhelmed by Ebola: adequate personal protective equipment and disposable patient care equipment, hospital equipment and surfaces that are easily disinfected — so that health care workers, other patients and the care environment are not contaminated with an infected patient’s blood or body fluids — and robust contact tracing and monitoring.

In an interview with KERA-FM (90.1), Cedric Spak, M.D., an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, also expressed confidence in the ability of local health care systems to handle the virus.

“The difference between a rural hospital in West Africa and a 21st-century U.S. hospital is so massive,” he said. “We have excellent hospitals here.”

About the author

Scott Goldstein
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Scott is a former Dallas newspaper reporter. His father and two brothers are doctors, so healthcare is his family business.

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Ebola preparations explained by Baylor Scott & White Health representatives