Local Emergency Responders Discuss Ebola

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Dozens of emergency responders and medical professionals learned the basics of Ebola Wednesday, and what to do should there be an outbreak in the metro.

"What we do know is we do have the tools and we do have the resources to manage Ebola in the United States," said county disease prevention supervisor Kari Labada Townsend. "Isolation of symptomatic patients, contact tracing and monitoring, our use of appropriate equipment and procedures, infection control measures, and communication are all tools that we have."

Participants learned how to identify the signs and symptoms of a patient with Ebola, they also learned about how identify the source of the exposure -- that it is not spread through the air -- only with direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person, and that the illness can only be spread when the patient is sick and having symptoms. Participants also learned how those patients would be isolated.

"If and when there's an infected person that's identified then as quickly as possible we want to identify the people that have had close contact with them, and begin to monitor them," said Polk County Public Health Director Rick Kozin, "If necessary keep their movements restricted so that no one else is put at risk."

Dispatchers are being told to ask callers with flu-like symptoms specific questions, like has the caller been to a west African country or been exposed to bodily fluids of another sick person in the past few weeks.

"A dispatcher will be that first line of defense almost," says Assistant Chief Rob Dehnert with West Des Moines Emergency Communications. "Those sort of patients showing up at the hospital are likely to be calling 911 with some sort of symptom."

Most important, Kozin says, "We should not panic. Ebola is an issue we should be concerned about but we have the resources, we have the skills and we have the know how to respond if we have to to keep at an absolute minimum the number of people who get sick."

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