SALT LAKE CITY – A potential case of Ebola was reported at Primary Children’s Hospital Thursday. However, during a press conference, hospital staff and health officials largely ruled out the possibility of the patient actually having the disease. Precautions were nonetheless taken and officials used the opportunity to test preparations made in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
Andrew Pavia, Primary Children’s chief of pediatric infectious diseases, said the patient had been isolated and screened for Ebola virus based on symptoms and recent travel history. In addition to experiencing Ebola-like symptoms, the patient had recently been in Africa, albeit in a country currently not impacted by the outbreak.
The possibility the patient actually has Ebola is “highly unlikely,” Pavia said. Still, a sample taken from the patient has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control for analysis. Pavia didn’t know when the CDC may get back to the hospital with the test results.
“We don’t think this is a case of Ebola … the possibility is very low,” Pavia said.
Pavia said the admission of the patient gave the hospital a chance to test its response to a possible Ebola case. It is something the hospital staff and area health officials have been preparing for since summer.
“This was a good test of the system, and it worked,” Pavia said.
During the press conference, reporters asked if the announcement of a potential Ebola case hadn’t caused undue panic. Pavia said the press conference was being held to help dispel rumors that had been circulating about the incident, as well as to show the public their health institutions are ready and prepared.
“There should be no reason to panic,” Pavia said.
Dr. Dagmar Vitek, deputy director and medical officer at the Salt Lake County Health Department, said Utah hospitals and health departments have been preparing to deal with Ebola and other infectious diseases for years.
“We are ready,” she said. “There will be very little danger to anybody.”
During the press conference, doctors said Ebola wasn’t likely to be a major issue in the United States, but they are nonetheless prepared.
“I sure hope the public is listening to the main message here: We are prepared,” Vitek said.
According to the CDC website, Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, contaminated objects and infected animals.
“Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, food,” the CDC website says.
Symptoms of Ebola can include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).
“Symptoms may appear anywhere from (two) to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is (eight) to 10 days,” according to the CDC website.
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