Health Officials Warn Against Ebola Overreaction, Stress Communication

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The Stanislaus County Public Health Officer is warning residents not to overreact to the possibility of the Ebola virus coming to the central valley.

"The risk is low for Ebola virus infection," said Dr. John Walker who once worked at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

He did say that the county is taking precautions by distributing strategies and alerts from the CDC as well as the California Department of Health. Health care providers, clinics and hospitals are developing their own protocols for dealing with an Ebola patient should one appear. He uses a motto developed by the Department of Emergency Services.

"Communicate, collaborate, coordinate. We need to do that," said Dr. Walker.

Local hospitals say they have protective clothing and masks at the ready along with isolation rooms.

Walker says he's more concerned about the spread of the flu. The symptoms are similar to the Ebola Virus but will hit many more people in the area.

Dr. Walker says precautions taken to protect yourself from any virus is the same, including frequent hand washing and sanitizing, avoiding contact between hands and the nose, eye and mouth area to prevent infection, and staying home when you are sick.

American Medical Response, the ambulance service that covers many counties in Northern California including Stanislaus County, has new alerts posted in all of its ambulances.  It says it's prepared to identify Ebola patients before they get to a hospital and give them time to prepare. It's the same protocol used for any patient who might have a contagious illness with the addition of two questions.

"Have you traveling outside the United States in the past 21 days and do you have flu-like symptoms? Based on the answers we report those to the hospitals," said Kristy Kuhn, Clinical and Education Specialist for AMR in Modesto.

AMR has 180 EMT's and Paramedics staffing ambulances in Stanislaus County. It has 18,000 nationwide in 40 states and officials believe that sooner or later one of its ambulances will run across an Ebola iinfected patient.

Protective clothing including booties, goggles, masks, gowns and gloves are stocked in each ambulance and takes a couple of minutes to put on.

After donning the gear, Kuhn says she feels safe from contact with bodily fluids of any patient who has symptoms.

"I feel my clothes are protected and all of my oral membranes, my eyes, everything's protected," said Kuhn.

The company is sharing Ebola virus information as well as precautionary steps with the public on its website.