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Ebola Scare at Watauga Medical Center Thursday Night

By Jesse Wood

Oct. 10, 2014. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System had an Ebola scare last night after the Watauga Medical Center admitted a patient with a fever who had recently traveled to a foreign country.

However ARHS issued a statement at 11:45 p.m. on Thursday that stated the “patient’s illness and epidemiologic information are not consistent with Ebola infection” and that the patient presented no threat to the community.

This came just two days after the first patient in the U.S. to be diagnosed with Ebola in the states died. That same day, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos said that the department, public health partners and health care providers are “ready to identify and respond to a case of Ebola.”

On Thursday, ARHS and the Appalachian District Health Department worked closely with N.C. DHHS Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday evening to assess whether the patient was suspected to have Ebola virus.

“After reviewing the case in great detail, the clinical care team and public health officials have determined that the patient’s illness and epidemiologic information are NOT consistent with Ebola infection.  The patient is currently being evaluated for other unrelated conditions,” the ARHS statement read. “Based on the patient’s treatment needs, the patient is being transferred to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and is in stable condition.”

ARHS has been monitoring information on Ebola this summer and on Aug. 1, the healthcare system implemented staff education and protocols for early detection. Staff has been educated on signs and symptoms of Ebola and signage has been placed in the hospital facilities for patients with a fever to alert staff of any recent travel overseas to regions affected by Ebola.

“Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Appalachian District Health Department (ADHD) are pleased with the coordinated public health response and quick action taken by the hospital medical team to provide excellent care to this patient and to assure the health of our community,” the statement concluded.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever greater than 101.5 degrees, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising). Symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the CDC says the average is 8 to 10 days.

Although the 2014 Ebola epidemic, which has killed nearly 4,000 people, is associated with West African countries Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the virus hit close to home, as far as the High Country is concerned, in August when Kent Brantly, a doctor with the Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse who was treating Ebola patients in Monrovia, the capitol of Liberia, contracted the disease.

Brantly eventually recovered after taking an experimental serum, receiving a unit of blood from a 14-year-old Liberian boy who survived the disease, and undergoing intensive treatment in an isolation center at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection announced that it will begin new layers of entry screening at five U.S. airports that receive more than 94 percent of travelers from the three Ebola-affected nations.

New York’s JFK International Airport, which received nearly half of the travelers from the three West African countries from July 2013 to July 2014, will begin the new screening on Saturday. Next week, the implementation of enhanced entry screening at Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare, and Atlanta international airports will take place.

“We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement. “We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.”