Hospital officials say they are prepared despite low Ebola risk

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, October 8, 2014

NATCHEZ — Local hospital officials say they’re prepared to follow infection guidelines should a patient show up with Ebola-like symptoms.

“Our hospital is dedicated to providing patients with high quality care in a safe environment,” said Lee Hinson, chief nursing officer for Natchez Regional and Natchez Community hospitals. “Although the risk is low, if a patient exhibits symptoms of Ebola, we are prepared to follow infection control protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention beginning with placing the patient in isolation.”

Hinson said medical personnel who enter the room with a suspected Ebola-infected patient would be protected with gowns, masks, face shields and gloves, and nonessential staff and visitors would be restricted from entering.

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The suspected case would be reported to local and state health departments and the CDC and we would continue to follow their guidance, Hinson said.

Though they continue to operate separately, NRMC and NCH share the same administrative team since Regional’s purchase by Community’s parent company.

In recent days. three other Mississippi hospitals have seen patients with symptoms that appeared similar to that of Ebola, including one in Vicksburg and one in Jackson Monday. The third patient was in Tupelo Friday. All three patients have been cleared as not having Ebola.

The disease has captured worldwide attention in recent weeks as an outbreak in Western Africa has killed thousands. While several U.S.-based aid workers have contracted the disease, only one case has been diagnosed on U.S. soil, a Texas man originally from Africa who had recently visited a friend with Ebola in Liberia.

The early stages of Ebola mimic the flu, but as it progresses it can include a fever of 101.5 or greater, severe headache and muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising.

According to the Mississippi Department of Health, only those who have traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the previous 21 days and who have had close contact with confirmed Ebola cases should be concerned about having contracted the disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have issued strict guidelines for dealing with Ebola on U.S. soil.

The disease was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River.