Ebola Recommendation from Del. Public Health, EMTs Discuss Prepa - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Ebola Recommendation from Del. Public Health, EMTs Discuss Preparedness

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - The Delaware Division of Public Health is recommending the World Health Organization's personal protective equipment approach to hospitals in the First State.

These recommendations include using double gloves while caring for anyone with Ebola or suspected of being infected with the virus and the buddy system, during which a partner watches health workers put on and take off the protective equipment, or PPE.

While each hospital makes its own decisions about which protocols to use, DPH officials say they're working with each hospital's emergency preparedness staff and infectious disease specialists in Delaware.

And it's not just hospital staff that could find themselves on the front line of dealing with an Ebola patient. An EMT or paramedic could be on that front line, too. They handle medical emergencies, maybe involving a patient presenting the early symptoms of Ebola. So, they have to be prepared.

Brent Scott, an EMT for the Milton Fire Department demonstrated how to put on the personal protective equipment if there was an Ebola threat.

"First things first, it's to be prepared to fully have your PPE on or personal protective equipment," he said. "You would have your gown on, your gloves, a full mask, glasses..."

The plan for Milton FD is similar to what is being done at many fire departments and ambulance companies across the state. Allen Barnes, Infection Control Officer for Sussex County EMS, said these precautions are standard for infectious diseases.

"We've had personal protective equipment for years and years," he said. "What we have had to do was increase our stock so we're in the middle right now of getting additional supplies out to the troops in case something happens and we need more supplies."

Besides donning the PPE and dealing with the patient inside the ambulance, the EMTs also have to change their procedure when it comes to bringing them into the hospital.

"Normally, we would take the patient right to the room and then move them over to the bed personally," Scott said. "But with the Ebola it would be more the hospital move them over just to keep them safe and keep the public safe."

Hospital staff, like those at Beebe Healthcare, are awaiting any call saying a possible patient is on the way.

"It's taken care of so that you don't have them who might have blood or body fluids on them entering the hospital like that," Cheryl Littlefield, the Emergency Management Coordinator explained.

EMTs also said the 911 dispatch services will be asking questions about recent travel to try and alert EMS to a possible threat before arriving on the scene.

At American Legion Ambulance Services Station 64 in Smyrna, fingers are crossed none of the EMTs will come into contact with a patient who has Ebola. But if someone is presenting symptoms, Allan Post, ambulance services director, says better safe than sorry.

"We're going to walk in with double gloves, probably have on eye masks, a face mask, maybe a gown."

"Our [fire department] personnel have been trained in hazmat incidents and how to handle them," said Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen.

Fire Chief Matthew Carey says his department is as prepared as it can be for a potential incident.

Mayor Christiansen says the city also recently developed a contingency plan for handling an Ebola issue.

"Our police department has contingency plans for isolation, crowd control, quarantine enforcement. Our fire chief has in place HAZMAT and SORT operations," he said.

At the state level in Delaware, paramedic services and basic life support are overseen in combination by the Fire Prevention Commission and the Office of Emergency Medical Services.

"We're all trying to get in front of this," said David Roberts, chair of the Fire Prevention Commission. "As we learn new information, we're disseminating that out as quickly as possible to emergency care providers. Hopefully, they'll be prepared if they come upon a situation."

Post says he's encouraging his personnel to take precautions no matter what.

"For something like a fever, we're going to maybe go to the extreme," said Post. "But we're going to tell the patient it's not just for our protection but for theirs as well."

Officials at the Office of Emergency Medical Services say they are using federal funds to buy more personal protective gear for the entire Delaware healthcare system - likely about five thousand kits at this point - as backup if there's an issue with the normal supply.

And in Maryland, WBOC spoke with the Ocean City Fire Department. Capt. Chuck Barton says OCFD has gotten info from many places on identifying Ebola and taking necessary precautions.

OCFD also evaluated its personal protective equipment and have modified the type of PPE used in order to provide enhanced protection. There will also be additional hands-on training to personnel in the proper use, putting on and taking off PPE and proper decontamination procedures.

WBOC reporters Lindsay Tuchman and Maxine Bentzel also contributed to this report.

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