- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - No Ebola cases have emerged in West Virginia, but hospitals, state health official and residents are preparing for the worst.

West Virginia University’s public affairs office sent an email Tuesday to the entire campus community - more than 35,000 people - going over protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those include washing hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; not touching the blood or body fluids sick people; and avoiding items such as clothes, bedding, needles, or medical equipment that may have come in contact with a sick person’s blood or body fluids.

Those are excellent suggestions for students and West Virginia residents in general, says Tony Gregory, a spokesman for the West Virginia Hospital Association. But for hospitals, he said, the potential challenges are more complicated.

CDC guidelines for Ebola infection control were updated Aug. 1 to ensure, among other things, that hospitals have personal protective equipment including disposable gloves, gowns, eye protection and facemasks that protect against direct skin contact. While hospitals are prepared for infectious diseases, the CDC guidelines for Ebola are more specific. That’s why Gregory says hospitals are generally prepared but “in the process of improving” standards.

Hospitals statewide participated in a conference call with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services Thursday to coordinate the response if an Ebola patient is found in West Virginia.

“We’re getting new information daily if not hourly,” Gregory said. “We’re making sure that we’re prepared and we’re sharing any new information we receive with all the departments and hospital leadership.”

That’s the best anyone can do for now, said DHHS spokesman Toby D. Wagoner.

“Preparedness is the focus,” Wagoner said in an email to the Associated Press.

A DHHS epidemiologist, on-call 24 hours per day, can help West Virginia hospitals with guidance if they receive an Ebola patient, Wagoner said.

“Residents need to know that Ebola is serious, but to remember to keep it in perspective,” Wagoner said. “The DHHR is monitoring the situation and is ensuring the public has the latest information. There is a lot of misinformation on social media. If they have questions, they should speak to their health care provider or their local health department. They could check out the website for more information.”

Rumors of Ebola in several passengers on an Atlanta flight into Charleston’s Yeager airport and rumors of Ebola patients in Morgantown both turned out to be false.

On the web

DHHR: www.dhhr.wv.gov/bph

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/qa.html


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