San Francisco hospitals are scrambling to equip themselves with the appropriate gear that must be used when treating a patient with Ebola after new federal guidelines calling for head-to-toe protection of health care workers were issued this week.
“If something does happen in San Francisco, we absolutely want to and will be prepared,” Dr. Tomas Aragon, The City's health officer, said at a Health Commission meeting Tuesday.
There have been no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in San Francisco, but The City's hospital systems are joining others across the U.S. to step up preparedness efforts in the event a patient surfaces with the deadly disease.
Last Thursday, The City's Department of Emergency Management implemented new Ebola-specific screening protocols for 911 dispatchers to help ensure first responders are informed of any potential Ebola symptoms, and can take steps to wear appropriate personal protective gear if needed.
Per the new guidelines issued Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gear for health care workers must include face shields, hoods, boot covers and other garb that leave no part of the body exposed.
While some hospitals in San Francisco might not immediately have enough of such equipment, especially as demand rises nationwide, Aragon pointed out that all health systems have the capacity and capability to treat an infectious disease and will share resources as needed.
With flu season underway, health care workers will need to properly assess a possible Ebola case without overwhelming the 132 isolation units in The City's hospitals with suspected patients, health officials said. Ebola indicators include a fever and vomiting, similar to symptoms of the flu.
Learning about a patient's travel history will be vital in helping to determine whether a patient may have Ebola, health officials said.
“Once the history of whether a person has traveled to an Ebola-affected area or had contact with an Ebola-infected patient is ascertained, there should be a narrower group of people in which Ebola infection needs to be ruled out,” said Dr. Cora Hoover, director of communicable disease control and prevention for the health department.