By Sam Eichner, GazeboNews Reporter
With one man dead in Dallas, two nurses receiving treatment in Atlanta and Bethesda, Maryland, and, as of Tuesday night, two sick Liberian travelers under observation in Chicago, just how prepared are local hospitals to handle Ebola should it come to the North Shore?
This isn’t an easy question to answer, because the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines for procedures, techniques and equipment have been evolving as ebola — and ebola headlines — have spread.
“Most of the hospitals [in the area] should be able to adequately treat exposure,” said Dr. Mark Mass, a former ER doctor at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital who now runs Lake Forest’s Acute Care Center. “They go through all the drills, and they have all the equipment and infrastructure in place.”
A spokeswoman for North Shore University Health Systems said it is “working proactively to ensure stringent protocols are in place to handle high-risk infections like Ebola in our hospitals, emergency departments and medical offices.”
On Monday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Public Health announced the creation of a network of providers that would treat patients in the event of an Ebola diagnosis. He designated four hospitals to handle ebola cases: Rush University Medical Center, the University of Chicago Medical Center, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital for adult patients, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital for pediatric patients.
Therefore, should a case arise on the North Shore, or anywhere in the Chicago area, the patient would be transferred to one of those facilities.
Northwestern Medicine’s Director of Global Health Dr. Robert Murphy said local hospitals will be prepared as long as they follow procedure.
“If you follow the current guidelines, you don’t get infected, and you stamp out these epidemics,” Dr. Murphy said, citing the case of Nigeria–a country that, despite having fewer resources than the U.S. and much more primitive hospitals, has squashed the spread of Ebola.
Dr. Murphy said that until recent events in Dallas, he believed any hospital could handle an Ebola patient. “The problem with this level of isolation is that if you screw up, the consequences are so severe,” he said, emphasizing the significance of thorough training courses in preventing similar mistakes.
Both doctors said people should not be concerned about contracting the virus — here on the North Shore or anywhere else in the country for that matter. For as much as the media might make it seem like Ebola is everywhere these days, you are unlikely to come in contact with it in real life.
“The overall risk is very low,” Dr. Mass said. “You’re not going to catch it from seeing someone across the room.”
Though Dr. Murphy said he wouldn’t be surprised if each of the five major U.S. cities saw a case of Ebola or two, he is confident in hospitals’ ability to effectively quell the spread of the virus.
“It’s not going to be a big problem in the U.S.,” Dr. Murphy said. “It’s going to be a serious, small problem.”