27 Investigates: Local hospitals and health departments get daily updates on Ebola


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As health experts work to track down anyone who may have had contact with Dallas nurse Amber Vinson who has tested positive for Ebola, local authorities said the process now is a waiting game.

“We have conference calls with the Ohio Department of Health every day,” said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney. “We had conference calls with the CDC. We are very much aware of what is happening and how things are changing.”

Since earlier this week, the story has changed from just one health care worker exposed in Texas to two, with that second person spending time here in Northeast Ohio over the weekend.

Don Koenig, CEO of Humility of Mary Health Partners, said the system’s hospitals and medical facilities are taking extra precautions and ordering additional protective gear.

“We expect most of those additional supplies to arrive in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Koenig said. “We will have it in all of our E.R.s and we will begin refresher training with our staff.”

If suspected Ebola patients were to show up at local hospitals, they would likely be kept in negative pressure rooms, which would prevent contaminated air from circulating. Testing on the patient would be done at a lab in Cincinnati and the Centers for Disease Control would be notified.

Local authorities would also have to work to quell fears and health officials would be tasked with making sure accurate information is relayed to the public.

“There is such a difference between fact and rumors, and rumors are really detrimental things. They make people afraid instead of understanding the science and understanding the risk. It is so minimal.” Sweeney said.

The Ohio Department of Health has issued updated guidance on quarantine protocols for health care providers and local officials dealing with a suspected or confirmed Ebola case. The state said the stronger recommendations build on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recommendations depend on a potential patient’s level of contact with an infected person:

– Direct physical contact without protective equipment, such as a handshake: Recommended that person be under 21-day quarantine after last contact.

– Proximity within three feet for a prolonged period, such as adjacent passengers in a vehicle: Recommended that person report their temperature twice daily, once by phone and once with a public health official as witness.

– No direct contact but within vicinity as indicated by a health official: Recommended that person self-monitor for any noteworthy health changes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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