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Ebola – No Excuses

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By Robert Geimer

We are aware of the mistakes. A patient with Ebola visiting from Liberia was misdiagnosed at a Texas hospital and released back into the community. Inadequate protective measures resulted in two nurses becoming infected. One of the infected nurses called the CDC to report a fever but nevertheless was allowed to board a commercial flight to visit family in Ohio. Fortunately, Ebola has yet to land in Illinois. However, if it does, given what we have learned from the mistakes made in Texas, there can be no excuses here in Illinois.

Our airports must have the ability to quickly quarantine a passenger suspected of having Ebola. Our hospitals must adequately train staff to screen patients for Ebola and to have protocols in place for what to do when a patient is thought to potentially be positive. This includes proper training, practice, equipment, supplies and leadership. As someone who is called after the fact to investigate how medical tragedies happen, I can attest to the fact that lack of awareness and/or preparation is an all-too common theme. Every hospital in Illinois, from the largest academic medical center to the smallest community hospital, must be ready in case Ebola arrives at its doorstep. Not just loose preparation, but real readiness.

Likewise, public health officials and those running our airports and transportation hubs need to make sure that any incidence of Ebola is immediately contained and clear lines of communication with the Centers for Disease Control are maintained. Now is the time to act. The Director of Strategy at the World Health Organization has stated that a major outbreak of Ebola in North America is unlikely due to health systems that are very strong. Let’s act now to keep these systems strong and prevent another breakdown such as occurred in Texas.

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