The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is nearing 900. Health officials said there have been more than 1,600 cases of Ebola since the disease emerged in Guinea earlier this year. More than half of those cases have turned fatal.
That news is fueling fears that the virus could take hold in the United States, and doctors in Pennsylvania are working on a plan, just in case.
The protocol includes placing the patient in an isolated room with a separate air system. Doctors also need to see if the patient travelled to an at-risk area.
Dr. John Goldman offered the first bit of reassuring news.
"There has never been a case of Ebola in this country," he said.
The second is that every hospital has been in contact with the state health department about procedures to put in place in case a person does walk into an emergency room with symptoms of Ebola.
"Our officials would work closely with the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention to protect the residents of Pennsylvania," added Carrie DeLone, Pennsylvania's physician general.
The tough part for medical professionals will be the diagnosis process. There are no specific symptoms of Ebola.
"Fever, headache, joint pain, muscle aches," said Goldman. "Things that you would normally see with any, illness, common cold or flu."
So, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is instructing health care workers to investigate the travel history of the sick patient.
If there is still cause for concern, the patient is placed in an isolated room with a separate air circulation system.
"Please be assured that every precaution and safety measure is being integrated into our surveillance and emergency preparedness procedures," said DeLone.
Doctors also said Pennsylvania residents shouldn't worry about the virus spreading from two Americans currently infected with Ebola.
"This is not a reasonable concern," added DeLone. "These individuals are contained in a bubble environment during transport and they remain so until they get to their isolation unit here."
Doctors also stress that Ebola is not an airborne illness. The disease is transferred through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person or animal.
Allentown, PA 18102