October 17, 2014
“I'd like to provide some basic but important facts about Ebola and its transmission. Although Ebola is an extremely serious viral disease with a high fatality rate, it is not easily transmitted. Specifically, the Ebola virus is not easily spread like a cold or influenza. You must come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person, or through exposure to objects that have been contaminated with infected bodily fluids.
Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, and so it is not transmitted through the air. This is important. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms or who has died of the disease. Flu can be transmitted before the person has symptoms; Ebola is transmitted only when the person is actually sick and showing symptoms such as fever.” - Kim Kucera, MLHS COO
“We don’t want to create fear, but we have to be prepared,” said Kim Kucera, COO of Mille Lacs Health System. “We understand that our communities are concerned. Our health care workers are concerned. It’s our top priority right now to do everything we can to make sure we have a system in place to keep both the public and our health care workers safe. We’re on high alert.”
Training and preparation in the midst of a rapidly changing public health situation is key to the Ebola action plan that MLHS has set in place. “Screen, Isolate and Transport” is a short but very descriptive phrase regarding MLHS’s plan. The health system has created an Ebola Preparedness task force, which has a training plan, a screening process, and will be conducting drills. The hospital is taking direction from the CDC and is coordinating with the Minnesota Department of Health’s infectious disease experts, closely following recommendations, especially regarding recognizing and diagnosing Ebola, and using proper personal protective gear and infection control.
The hospital and clinics will be posting signs for patients, asking if they have traveled recently to Africa, have been in contact with anyone who has traveled there, and telling patients if they have a fever, to notify someone on the Admissions staff.
“Early recognition in the form of screening is essential to our protocol,” Kucera said. “In rural Minnesota, we don’t have the resources to care for this type of patient, so if we view a case as highly suspect, we would isolate the patient and then safely transfer to the most appropriate facility. We want to be able to react immediately and effectively to this situation and we’re doing everything we can to make sure we can do that.”
Additionally, MLHS is asking patients to call and alert the doctor’s office or the ER/Urgent care prior to coming in if they have visited a country affected by the outbreak and develop a fever within 21 days, or if they have been exposed to someone who has visited an affected country.