UNMH patient being tested for Ebola-like symptoms

SANTA FE (KRQE) – A 30-year-old woman is undergoing tests at UNM Hospital to make sure she doesn’t have Ebola. She’s in isolation and even though doctors don’t think this is a probable case, they’re taking every precaution to be sure.

Doctors say Test results should be in very shortly. Only then will doctors know for sure whether the woman has the virus. While doctors say it’s unlikely she does, some visiting the hospital are, nevertheless, on edge.

The woman is in isolation at UNM Hospital with symptoms matching that of Ebola- a sore throat, headache, fever and muscle aches.

EBOLA SYMPTOMS

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lack of appetite

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to ebolavirus, although 8-10 days is most common.

Some who become sick with Ebola are able to recover. We do not yet fully understand why. However, patients who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus at the time of death.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

She just returned from West Africa where officials say she was a teacher. They say she followed all the proper protocol when she started seeing symptoms- by not exposing others and alerting healthcare providers. While she claims to have no known exposure to the virus, doctors want to be sure.

“Our index of suspicion is relatively low. We think that it’s likely she has another illness but, we want to be extremely careful,” says New Mexico Department of Health’s Dr. Joan Baumbach.

That’s why UNM Hospital officials are taking extra safety measures.

“We make sure to minimize the number of people who go in and out of the room and right now what CDC is recommending and we are following that recommendation, is actually having people on what is called contact and drop of precautions,” explains UNM Hospital Epidemiologist Meghan Brett.

That means staff have to wear gowns, gloves, eye protection and a face mask when they go into her room.

It’s eased worries for some with loved ones who are patients there.

“Initially I was a little concerned…I do have several friends that work here at the hospital and they kind of reassured me,” says hospital visitor Victoria Graston.

Yet, had they not heard it from friends working there or on the news, they might not have heard it at all. The hospital says there’s no protocol dictating they have to tell other patients about the possible case.

“Because it’s protected health information. Obviously this may change that a little bit but at the same time we are doing everything we can to protect the patients and our staff to make sure that there’s no risk of transmission,” Brett says.

It’s garnered mixed feelings from those visiting the hospital.

“That scares me because what if my child had a cough and I had to take him to the urgent care? What happens then? I put him at risk and I put myself at risk,” says hospital visitor Cheryl Yazzie.

Greg Sonnenberg has a different take.

“It’s such a rare occasion that something like that would happen here. It doesn’t seem to effect me whatsoever,” says Sonnenberg.

Doctors say Ebola can’t be transmitted through the air or casual contact, like eating or drinking after someone. They say it can only be spread through direct contact- like broken skin or mucus membranes.

According to the CDC, Ebola “poses no substantial risk to the U.S. general population”. Doctors say a person with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.

As of August 13th, no confirmed Ebola cases have been confirmed in the U.S. aside from the two U.S. health workers evacuated from Liberia.

The World Health Organization says at least 2,100 people have been infected in West Africa and more than half have died.

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