Monday, October 20, 2014

Officials To Discuss Ebola Training For At-Risk New York City Employees

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York City is stepping up its training for city workers who could be the first ones to make contact with anyone with Ebola. 

City officials are meeting Monday morning to discuss plans and specific steps to be taken in the event the deadly virus were to emerge in New York.

Among other things, the meeting will address facts about the disease and measures in place to protect police officers, emergency personnel, teachers and other civil servants.

It will also give the Municipal Labor Committee, which encompasses unions representing more than 300,000 New York City employees, a chance to voice any questions or concerns for their members’ safety when it come to Ebola.

“These are the people who will be in harm’s way,” Harry Nespoli, head of the Municipal Labor Committee, said Sunday. “Let’s hope to God we never have to deal with it, but what this city is doing is preparing for the worst just in case.”

This all comes on the heels of yet another Ebola flight scare in Ohio, but also some reassuring news out of Dallas.

In Dallas, Louise Troh and several friends and family members will finally be free Monday to leave a stranger’s home where they have been confined under armed guard for 21 days — the maximum incubation period for Ebola.

They had close contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died of the disease at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Oct. 8.

“Not only have they been isolated from the wider public and their own families, they’ve been isolated from each other even in the house because they have not been able to touch each other,” said family friend Pastorgeorge Mason.

The incubation period also has passed for about a dozen health workers who encountered Duncan when he went to the Dallas hospital for the first time, on Sept. 25.

Duncan was sent home but returned by ambulance on Sept. 28 and was admitted. Two nurses who treated him during that second visit, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, are now hospitalized with Ebola.

Vinson’s family issued a statement Sunday saying they have hired a lawyer and are troubled by comments and media coverage that “mischaracterize” Vinson, who is being treated at Emory University in Atlanta. Vinson “has not and would not knowingly expose herself or anyone else,” the statement says.

Dallas County and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials cleared her to fly last week to Dallas from Ohio, and “suggestions that she ignored any of the physician and government-provided protocols recommended to her are patently untrue and hurtful,” the family says.

On Sunday, a Carnival Cruise Lines ship returned to Galveston, Texas, from a seven-day trip marred by worries over a health worker on board who was being monitored for Ebola. The lab supervisor had handled a specimen from Duncan and isolated herself on the ship as a precaution.

Carnival said it was informed by U.S. health authorities Sunday morning that the worker tested negative for Ebola.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said those caring for Duncan were vulnerable because some of their skin was exposed.

“The guidelines did have some exposure of skin in the sense you had a mask, but there was some skin that was exposed and some hair that was exposed,” said Fauci. “We want to make sure that that’s no longer the case.”

The CDC is working on revisions to safety protocols. Earlier ones, Fauci said, were based on a World Health Organization model for care in remote places, often outdoors, and without intensive training for health workers.

Health officials had previously allowed hospitals some flexibility to use available covering when dealing with suspected Ebola patients. The new guidelines are expected to set firmer standards: calling for full-body suits and hoods that protect worker’s necks; setting rigorous rules for removal of equipment and disinfection of hands; and requiring a “site manager” to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment.

The guidelines also are expected to require a “buddy system” in which workers check each other as they come in and go out, according to an official who was familiar with the guidelines but not authorized to discuss them before their release.

On Sunday the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had ordered the formation of a 30-person military support team to assist civilian medical professionals in the U.S. to treat Ebola.

Meanwhile, Ohio’s Youngstown-Warren Airport had its own protocols tested Sunday night after a passenger on a flight from Florida showed Ebola symptoms.

“His eyes would roll back in his head when he was having convulsions,” said Jeff Gambino, whose wife and son were sitting right next to sick passenger. “His head would go back and forth. They were trying to restrain him and he threw up a couple, three, four times.”

The passenger was stabilized and taken to a local hospital but the airport director says inspectors found no sign of Ebola.

“They called the hazmat team, both EMS responded,” said airport director Dan Dickten. “I think it was a good response and now everything’s cleared and no eminent danger of any kind.”

And while some passengers complained of not being given enough information, the airport said it followed protocol, something New York officials also hope to be able to say should we get a case of our own in the city.

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