Louisville physicians say don't panic over Ebola - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville physicians say don't panic over Ebola

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville medical professionals say the Ebola virus shouldn't scare you. Although they advise patients to be cautious and doctors to be prepared, they don't believe the virus will show up in Louisville.

The World Health Organization is reporting that more than 4,400 people have died from the virus, with most of those deaths occurring in Africa. There have been two confirmed Ebola cases in the United States, both of which are in Dallas, Texas.

As a result, major airports are screening passengers coming from Africa, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is promising to enact special Ebola response teams in hospitals treating Ebola patients.

But Louisville medical professionals say before you panic, hear this:

"Realistically, it's very unlikely that we will see cases here," said Ruth Carrico, an infection control expert for University of Louisville Physicians.

Carrico was appointed by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to serve on the CDC's National Biosurveillance Advisory Committee. She says unlike in other metro areas, international travelers must go through checkpoints in other cities before arriving in Louisville.

"It is unlikely that someone would get here and not be appropriately screened," she said. "It certainly is possible but with the systems in place now in order to get out of a country, it's going to be unlikely that someone will be able to arrive."

Louisville doctors are taking precautions nonetheless. Patients report that some general practitioners are starting each appointment with a questionnaire about international travel. While some are making patients wear a mask should they show flu-like symptoms.

"If someone has been outside the U.S. and has a fever, then those people should initially be handled differently from someone who answers no to those questions," said Carrico. "It enables us to put people down the right path so we can separate them from others until we can gather more information."

With it being flu season, doctors say extra precautions are good.

"All of this, and Ebola can present with very similar types of symptoms," she said. "Now we're asking our healthcare workers to notice a variety of illnesses that may have public health importance."

Infectious disease specialist with U of L Physicians Dr. Forest Arnold said even if the media is overreacting, the attention is good.

"We are overreacting, but there is a healthy aspect to that if it causes you to be prepared," said Dr. Arnold. "Perhaps the whole event in Dallas has awakened the U.S. and hospitals to say 'hey, we need to be ready in case people come here.'"

The University of Louisville Medical Center says its been working with city and state government, as well as other hospitals to make sure they're prepared should Ebola show up here.

"We are interacting with metro health and the state health department so we are coordinating first responders and all getting on the same page, and the state health department is disseminating information to all hospitals."

So if it comes to Louisville, medical leaders say, we'll be ready.

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