Preparing for Ebola

The Bath County Local Emergency Planning Committee is making plans for it’s response to Ebola.  Representatives from the Virginia Department of Health attended the committee’s October meeting to discuss preparation with Bath officials.

Committee members discussed how most people say an Ebola case would not happen in Bath, but it was also pointed out that tourism is the county’s biggest industry.

Carolyn Palmer is a District Nurse Epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health.

“Never say never,” says Palmer. “I have said for years that we are a plane ride away from anything that could happen in the world.  And while it’s unlikely that it will happen here, you have to be prepared for anything that could come down the pike.  And so they are getting people prepared here in case they do have to deal with something like this.”

The Virginia Department of Health provides guidance for localities and it has developed a procedure for evaluating potential Ebola cases.  Palmer said she thinks Ebola will come to Virginia at some point and she believes most likely it will be in Northern Virginia.  Ebola has the same symptoms as so many other diseases, so the way to differentiate is to ask questions.

“What we’re looking to do is that the person is screened from the very call that EMS gets, that the dispatchers will screen the people,” says Palmer.  “So that from the very beginning, whatever happens from there, people who come to get that patient, people at the hospital, people at the transferring hospital, everybody down the line knows.  But the health department is involved early on, because we have guidelines by which we have questions to ask.  We need this information about the patient to see if they even are at risk at all.  Because we’ve gotten lots of calls about people who are concerned ‘I traveled to Dallas and I’ve been in an airport’ and that’s not somebody we would be concerned about.   And so we have a definite algorithm that we use to screen people, as to whether they are at risk for having Ebola or not at risk.”

Bath Community Hospital is forming a task force on Ebola and will be reviewing plans developed by other hospitals including Augusta Medical Center in Augusta County and Carilion Clinic in Roanoke.   Since Bath Community Hospital is not staffed or equipped to keep a patient for treatment, the hospital would hold a patient until transport to another hospital could be done.  Bath Community Hospital does have a decontamination room and two isolation rooms.

“I just want people not to be afraid of this,” says Palmer.  “There are lots of resources out there.  And also the health department is always a good resource, if you have questions.  You know, we’ve been through different diseases before.  We’ve been through SARS.  We’ve been through the anthrax scare.  We’ve been through the AIDS scare.  And we’ve got plans in place, this just gets tweaked a little bit and a little bit more training that goes on, but you’ve got some phenomenal people here today and I feel very comfortable with their ability to handle this.”

Bath County’s Emergency Services Coordinator Andy Seabolt said he is creating a full response template for Ebola and other diseases.  It will cover the correct use of personal protective equipment and additional training for emergency services.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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