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Utah Hospitals Prepare For Ebola

Ebola virus under microscope
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the U.S. was confirmed in Dallas, Texas. The patient had recently been in Liberia.

“The patient was visiting family members and staying with family members who live in this country. We will contact anyone who we think has any likelihood of having had an exposure to the individual while they were infectious,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “At this point, that does not include anyone who might have traveled with him because he was not infectious at that time.”

The case has caused alarm, not just because the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa was confirmed in the U.S., but because the sick patient was initially released from the hospital with antibiotics before returning two days later after the illness had taken a severe turn.

Logan Regional Hospital’s Dr. Todd Brown said determining whether an illness warrants isolation or just some bed rest can be a difficult decision for health care workers. He said doctors will typically assume that what they’re seeing is a common condition, just because that is more likely.

Brown said Logan Regional Hospital’s protocol to handle potentially severe infectious diseases such as Ebola includes keeping healthcare workers and other patients protected from exposure. He said asking questions is key to maintaining safety. These critical questions were either not asked or not conveyed to doctors when the Texas patient first went to the hospital.

“If the patient is able to speak and give a history it’s really important for us to determine where the patient has been, who they’ve been exposed to and whether or not they’ve been in an area that may be risky for the development of a viral or other contagious illness,” Brown said.

No other cases of Ebola have been confirmed, though the CDC is monitoring the health of a number of people who came into contact with the ill man in Texas.