NM healthcare workers aware of Ebola threat

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Hospital officials in Dallas said they were doing everything right, but the Ebola virus slipped through the cracks. Now, a nurse has been diagnosed with Ebola after treating the patient who died last week.

Healthcare workers KRQE News 13 spoke with said they’re communicating closely with the Centers for Disease Control and each other, to make sure everyone knows how to handle the deadly virus. After two Ebola cases in Dallas, nurses and health care workers in New Mexico said they’re acutely aware of the threat brought on by the deadly virus.

“Ebola is unlike any other communicable disease that we’ve encountered,” said Deborah Walker, Executive Director of the New Mexico Nurses Association.

Walker said they’re in constant communication with the CDC. “The goal is that our nurses and the other healthcare providers have as up-to-date information as possible,” Walker explained.

Health officials said a Dallas nurse, 26-year-old Nina Pham, tested positive for the virus, which is spread through bodily fluids. Pham had been treating an Ebola patient from Liberia, Thomas Duncan, who died last week.

Now, there’s questions about a breach in protocol, including how Pham removed her protective gear after treating the patient. “It’s as important in following a sequence and checklist in taking it off, as it is in putting it on,” said Walker.

Federal health authorities are cautioning all hospitals around the country to “think Ebola.”

“We’re getting the word out for those nurses who are on the front lines, so that they can be adequately prepared for whatever comes their way,” Walker said.

The need to be prepared hit home for hospital staff at Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe on Monday.

Paramedics drove a patient to the hospital and called ahead – alerting hospital staff the patient might have Ebola. That patient was placed in isolation until the Department of Health determined the patient didn’t have Ebola symptoms and never had contact with anyone who may have had the virus.

The University of New Mexico Hospital had a possible Ebola patient in August, who returned from teaching in Sierra Leone. She was put in isolation until tests came back, and she was cleared.

Hospital officials told KRQE News 13 they will follow the same protocols again if needed.

Walker said the CDC will hold a webinar Tuesday on keeping health care workers safe and system preparedness. They want nurses throughout New Mexico to participate.

The New Mexico Hospitals Association is trying to assess what is needed around the state and where. Walker said she expects to see more detailed information disseminated to those on the front line.

Outbreaks of Ebola Virus

— Information from CDC, images from CIA World Fact Book.

There have been three other instances of Ebola in the US – including Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania – no humans were infected. Cases were due to imported monkeys.

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