Though the potential for ebola reaching the region is low, local agencies aren’t taking any chances.
Central Oregon Community College is currently in the process of establishing new epidemic guidelines based on the CDC’s recommendations, to prepare in case the virus made it’s way to Central Oregon, according to Seth Elliot, the campus public safety supervisor for Central Oregon Community College.
“The general plan is isolation and containment, identification of who else might have been exposed to that person, and then a quick call to local, state and county public health officials,” Elliott said.
First responders will be on the frontline of an epidemic if it were to occur, according to Nick Sphatt, the program director of emergency medical services and structural fire science at COCC. According to Sphatt, local EMS teams are currently following the appropriate personal protective equipment guidelines established by the CDC.
PPE includes Tyvek suits, booties, N95 masks, eye protection, and hoods. If a patient is known ahead of time to be possibly carrying the Ebola virus, crews will line the ambulances with Tyvek ®, which will make it easier for first responders to clean up after an infected patient.
“The ambulance agencies, hospitals, and providers in this area have determined that the Redmond ICU will be the place where any patient with these types of symptoms will go during the holding time before they can be transferred to a hospital that can actually treat them and evaluate them,” Sphatt explained..
Fear spreads faster than disease
“As far as pandemics go, Ebola is not as bad as it could be. At this point it’s not airborne and it takes intensive contact with biological material,” said Seth Elliot, the campus public safety supervisor for Central Oregon Community College.
Elliot believes the fear created by the outbreak could be harder to deal with than the disease itself.
“Some of the high risks that you see overseas are contact with dead bodies or infected by healthcare workers so the good news is that it is hard to transmit. The bad news is that there is still that fear factor; that’s a big deal and that can be worse than the pandemic disease itself,” Elliot said.
Ebola is a filovirus that is found in its natural host the fruit bat. So far it can only be transmitted in humans via direct contact with bodily fluids, both human and animal, according to the CDC.
United States mortality rates for ebola compared to more common illnesses such as influenza are low, according to CDC statistics.
Annual mortality rates in the United States from influenza range from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths from 30 influenza seasons (1976-1977 season to 2005-2006 season). Meanwhile as of October 24, 2014, there have been only four cases of Ebola and one death in the United States.
Michael Gary | The Broadside