UI faculty prepare for possible Ebola outbreak


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In the wake of the expanding Ebola outbreak in western Africa, the University of Iowa has geared up its containment facilities and informed its faculty about the protocol for dealing with and diagnosing the disease.

UI Health Care staff and faculty received an email on Aug. 15 regarding a possible outbreak of Ebola in the Iowa City community.

The email was sent out on the behalf of Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan and UI internal-medicine Professor Loreen Herwaldt.

“Although we have not seen any actual or even suspected cases of the Ebola virus at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, we are providing these resources to educate medical and nursing staff members on the virus and define a screening protocol,” the email read.

The email also included a link to two documents that discuss diagnostic questioning for suspected patients about their symptoms and travel history.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said they included the diagnostic criteria and symptoms listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms of Ebola include a 101.5 degree Fahrenheit fever, and could also include a severe headache, muscle pain, and vomiting, Moore said.

He said they also include the risk factors within the 21 days possible before onset.

Those factors include the exchange of bodily fluids with patients and the direct handling of exposed animals from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

In regards to the preventative measures in place, Herwaldt said the UIHC was “very busy preparing” facilities and staff to test and treat Ebola.

“We have created screening tools, developed a comprehensive plan, and have developed and are continuing to develop resources for our staff,” Herwaldt said.  “At the moment, we need the time to finish our preparations.”

Douglas Beardsley, the director of the Johnson County Public Health Department, said he was confident in the facilities both in Iowa City and across the United States.

“Do we foresee widespread outbreak of Ebola in the U.S.? [It’s] very unlikely,” Beardsley said. “We have a high degree of confidence we can contain and control it.”

He said managing infectious diseases is part of everyday life in the hospital.

“They have varying degrees of isolation procedures in place already,” Beardsley said. “The likelihood is very remote, but we remain vigilant.”

Moore said they have isolation rooms that are designated to care for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola infections.

Moore said the UI has a long history of responding to infectious diseases including SARS, MERS, and H1N1.

“In each circumstance, we convene a bio emergency response team,” Moore said. “Each case [the team] has prepared specific responses to each of those emerging infections. [It’s] just a matter of adapting [the] plan to the current situation.”

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