Local health workers train for possibility of Ebola

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – While Ebola has not hit Wisconsin, local health workers are staying one step ahead by training its staff. Both Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire and the Eau Claire City-County Health Dept. said they’re training so that staff are ready for whatever comes their way, including Ebola.

Suzanne Secraw is the Emergency Department supervisor at Mayo Clinic Health System. She said around 85 workers in her department have started training over the last few weeks on the off chance that the Ebola virus travels from West Africa to Eau Claire.

“We have been putting action plans into place in how we can adequately protect our staff and protect our community,” said Secraw. “What the signs and symptoms are, how to screen for anybody coming from one of those countries and making sure they understand which type of PPE or Personal Protection Equipment they should be wearing and how to handle a patient once they arrive onto our facility.”

There’s even a new Ebola Isolation Cart equipped with everything from hazmat suits to splash shields in the ED. Secraw said all of her staff members are hazmat-decontamination trained. Everybody is already familiar with how to put on and prepare for the suits in any type of hazard situation.

Secraw said patients with Ebola would be placed in a negative pressure room where they’d have limited contact with hospital staff and patients.

“That means that any of that air that's in that room is actually vented away from out of the emergency department,” she said.

Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Dept. said there is regular training on communicable diseases like Ebola between the department, local law enforcement, hospitals and other government agencies.

“We make sure our staff knows how to not only watch for communicable disease outbreaks, but then respond to them so all of the things that we need to do in order to interview people, to investigate where they've been and what they've been doing and making sure that disease doesn't spread,” said Giese.

Giese said Ebola isn’t a concern in Eau Claire at this time, but communicable diseases are. That is why it’s important for the health department and its partners to prepare.

“There are processes in place right now where if someone walks in and says that they’ve been recently a traveler from West Africa and they think they may have been exposed, we have procedures in place at all of our healthcare institutions and they've had training and have the policies and procedures from the state and from CDC to respond immediately,” said Giese.

She said locally, health leaders would decide whether area health providers are sufficient for the care needed for an Ebola patient or if the patient needs to be transported out.

Secraw said the emergency department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire is considering tentative Ebola drills with its staff. Test patients would be treated as actual patients, allowing staff members to get comfortable with the equipment and procedures.

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