Hospitals are not ready to handle multiple Ebola cases

A Washington-area hospital announced Friday that it had admitted a patient with symptoms and a travel history associated with Ebola. The case has not been confirmed, but the number of similar incidents around the country and a confirmed Ebola patient in Dallas have spurred concerns about whether U.S. hospitals are as prepared to deal with the virus as federal officials insist they are.

Since July, hospitals around the country have reported more than 100 cases involving Ebola-like symptoms to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials there said. Only one patient so far — Thomas Duncan in Dallas — has been diagnosed with Ebola.

But in addition to lapses at the Dallas hospital where Duncan is being treated, officials say they are fielding inquiries from hospitals and health workers that make it clear that serious questions remain about how to properly and safely care for potential Ebola patients.

A CDC official said the agency realized that many hospitals remain confused and unsure about how they are supposed to react when a suspected patient shows up. The agency sent additional guidance to health-care facilities around the country this week, just as it has numerous times in recent months, on everything from training personnel to spot the symptoms of Ebola to using protective gear.

Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which has treated several Ebola patients who were flown from West Africa, also has provided information and advice to dozens of hospitals, many of which are struggling with a lack of awareness about safety protocols and fear among some workers who feel ill-prepared. Washington-area health officials also said they are trying to identify gaps in their preparedness plans.

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