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Will all Ebola patients be sent to one of four biocontainment hospitals?

usa-ebola-preparation-mobile-oct-14-2014-1jpg-b0f67cde77c2ce32On Monday, the governor of Alabama swept into University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and declared the state’s hospitals were ready to handle an Ebola patient.

Gov. Robert Bentley added the caveat that he hoped the patients would wind up in one of the major “tertiary” hospitals such as UAB.

But now with the infection of a second health care worker in Dallas, will the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention make another, more sweeping recommendation in protocol?

David Pigott, Ebola expert and professor of emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, thinks so.

“I think it’s possible the CDC may recommend a transfer protocol of documented Ebola patients,” said Pigott said.

Pigott said he believed CDC will call for the transfer of any diagnosed patient to one of these hospitals:

  • Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where an American doctor was successfully treated, and a U.S. freelance journalist was sent.
  • St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana;
  • The National  Institutes of Health in Maryland, where a doctor exposed to Ebola was treated and released after testing negative for the disease, and;
  • Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where three U.S. aid workers have been treated.

These  hospitals have biocontainment units that are set up to handle the most infectious of diseases, with features like double doored-chambers for changing in and out of biocontainment suits, negative air pressure, and special filters.

“The nurses at major hospitals like Texas Presbyterian are used to treating tuberculosis, staph infections. But these are things where they may make a mistake and there’s not a problem. The Ebola virus is incredibly unforgiving. Without close contact, it’s not infectious, but with close contact, it is highly infectious.”

But the four hospitals together can treat only from 8 to 13 patients, according to USA Today.

Officials from two of the four “super-hospitals” told USA Today that their facilities won’t be able to care for all future Ebola patients.

“It’s not going to be possible, if this outbreak continues in West Africa, for a select number of institutions to care for patients,” Bruce Ribner, medical director of the infectious disease unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

The latest diagnosed health care worker was one of the caregivers to Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where he showed up at the emergency room.


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