Augusta Health Prepares for Ebola

Friday, October 17, 2014

Augusta Health—working with the local Department of Health, government and emergency agencies; the Virginia Department of Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association—is preparing for the possibility of an individual in our community being identified as having the Ebola Virus.

A cross-functional Ebola Preparedness Team, led by Associate Chief Medical Officer Scott Just, MD, has been activated. "Our top priority, as always, is safety for our patients, staff, visitors and the community as a whole. We work to achieve this safety while providing the highest quality care," said Dr. Just. "Our Ebola Preparedness Team has developed specific checklists and protocols that follow, and in some cases, exceed CDC guidelines. We have a comprehensive plan in place that is focused on safety as the highest priority, but we understand that the situation is changing daily and the plan will remain dynamic. We will adapt the plan as necessary to protect the health of our patients, health team members and visitors."

In addition to the development of department-specific protocols and procedures, Augusta Health has ensured that the supplies and personal protective equipment needed are readily available if a patient suspected of having Ebola arrived at any Augusta Health access point. Detailed plans to control employee exposure have been developed. A training plan that includes step-by-step procedures for employees who would be caring for any suspected cases is also in place. The Ebola Preparedness Team is also participating in drills and training on proper screening, procedures, and the donning and removal of personal protective equipment.

As in the case of all emergency scenarios, an Incident Command Center is ready and prepared to be activated if needed. Regular drills are an important part of preparedness; the most recent internal drill was a Table Top Exercise conducted on October 17. The Ebola Preparedness Team meets weekly with department directors and key leaders to review the status of the Ebola situation. More frequent meetings will be held if needed.

A Community Response Group meet at Augusta Health on the afternoon of October 17 to share information, discuss resources and training procedures and plan for the possibility of a case of Ebola in the community. Participants included the Central Shenandoah Health District, Virginia Department of Public Health Augusta Health, Waynesboro Public Schools, Augusta County Schools, Middle River Jail, Shenandoah Valley Airport, Central Shenandoah Emergency Medical Services Council, and the Emergency Communications Centers, the local Emergency Management offices, local law enforcement agencies, local fire departments, and local EMS agencies from Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County.

What You need to Know about Ebola

Allison Baroco, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist at Augusta Health, adds this information for general public knowledge:

  • Those at risk for Ebola include travelers to West Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria) in the past 21 days or those who have had contact with somebody with Ebola or contact with a person who has traveled to West Africa within the past 21 days.
  • Symptoms must be present in order to spread Ebola. Someone who has been exposed, but has no symptoms, will not be contagious.
    • The time from exposure to symptoms can be 2 to 21 days, but the average time is 8 to 10 days.
    • Symptoms include a fever higher than 100.4 F, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
  • Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids.
    • Direct contact means through broken skin or through the eyes, nose or mouth
    • Body fluids are blood, urine, feces, saliva, vomit, sweat and semen
    • Objects such as needles that have been contaminated with the body fluids of someone who is sick with Ebola.
  • Ebola is NOT spread through the air, through water or through food.

Important Date

Along with the local department of health and other local agencies, Augusta Health will host a public health forum on Ebola on Wednesday, October 29 at 6:30 pm in the Augusta Community Care Building on the Augusta Health campus. Local experts will present information, and time for questions will be planned.