New Orleans (WGNO) Tulane University Infectious Diseases & Tropical Medicine Dr. Susan McLellan recently returned from West Africa where she lent her expertise to try and save lives. She calls the experience exhausting and frightening, but important.
“If we don't deal with the outbreak where it is now, in West Africa, then it has a much greater chance of spreading to places such as the United States, such as Europe,” explains Dr. McLellan.
The CDC calls the 2014 Ebola epidemic the largest in history. The World Health Organization reports more than 7,000 cases in parts of Africa, including roughly 3,400 deaths. So far in the U.S. a handful of Americans are being treated, but the first case to be diagnosed here was confirmed a week ago in Dallas.
“I do think there will be several more people coming to the United States, Europe, basically as long as that outbreak is raging out of control in West Africa there is a possibility for cases to occur outside,” warns Dr. McLellan.
Now local health care professionals are preparing and city leaders are testing protocol.
“The protocols are now tight and they’re in place about who is supposed to do what, when, where and how,” says Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The CDC requires all hospitals to screen incoming patients to determine their risks for Ebola.
At the Interim LSU Hospital a patient exhibiting Ebola would be taken to one of two isolation rooms. Both Ochsner and Tulane Hospital are also equipped with isolation rooms.
Tulane Medical Center CEO William Lunn says he would not be surprised if New Orleans dealt with Ebola first hand, yet it's the flu that has him more concerned right now.,
“The reality is most of us will be confronted with the flu far more easily that we will be Ebola,” says Dr. Lunn.
Dr. McLellan believes the key is to get a handle on what is happing in West Africa, and control the outbreak there. She says until that happens we will continue to see people diagnosed in other parts of the world.
As far as an epidemic happening here, D. McLellan is confident that cannot happen. She says one of the basic reasons is because we have running water which means we can wash up easily; something that many in West Africa don't have access to.