Chicago evaluates first two patients for Ebola

Nurses in an isolation ward assist each other with the putting on of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Courtesy: www.phil.cdc.gov
Nurses in an isolation ward assist each other with the putting on of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This effort was part of a CDC-sponsored training course in Alabama. Courtesy: http://www.phil.cdc.gov

By Grace Eleyae

An adult traveling from Liberia, under observation at Rush University Medical Center, will not undergo testing for Ebola after an initial evaluation,  the Centers for Disease Control and prevention determined Wednesday. The traveler was taken to Rush Tuesday after reporting nausea and diarrhea on a flight from Liberia to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The passenger also disclosed having been diagnosed with typhoid fever in August. Hospital officials say the patient’s condition has improved overnight.

The decision to forgo the Ebola testing for now was made by officials after the patient was “assessed by the Rush core response team, including senior infectious disease experts, in consultation with experts from Chicago Department of Public Health, and the CDC,” according to the hospital. City and hospital officials are working closely with the CDC to continue monitoring the patient’s condition.

Meanwhile, a young boy traveling with his parents to Chicago from Liberia will be tested as a precaution. The little boy vomited on a flight from Liberia to O’Hare Tuesday, according to the CDPH. In accordance with the city’s strict infection control protocols, the child is at the University of Chicago Medical Center for ongoing observation and isolation.

“The patient is in stable condition at this time,” according to a hospital statement Wednesday. “No other information can be shared about the child due to patient privacy laws.”

The child and the child’s family were evaluated by officials at the airport upon landing. While the family showed no symptoms, the child was first taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital for additional observations. The child displayed no fever or symptoms other than the vomiting on the plane, however.

The two cases are unrelated and the passengers, initially screened at O’Hare, were not traveling together.

Both  incidents have come after the CDPH announced their preparation plans for handling an Ebola outbreak consistent with the CDC’s recommendations last week.

As part of that plan, the Chicago Department of Public Health formed an Ebola Resource Network with four hospitals that will serve as responders in situations like these. In addition to Rush, Lurie, and University of Chicago, Northwestern Memorial Hospital is also a part of the network.

Rush University Medical Center announced that it has constructed an Ebola isolation unit within the intensive care unit with three beds. An adjacent anteroom has also been assigned to provide a space for healthcare professionals to put on and remove a barrage of personal protective equipment in order to guard them against getting infected.

“We are deploying the smallest number of people with the highest level of training possible to provide these patients with the best care while minimizing the chance of transmission,” Rush’s chief medical officer Dr. David Ansell said in a statement. Officials say they have established a core team that will solely focus their care on Ebola patients, should a patient be diagnosed.

The CDC has released a checklist of things for healthcare workers to look out for when dealing with a patient who may have Ebola.
The CDC has released a checklist of things for healthcare workers to look out for when dealing with a patient who may have Ebola.

The CDC has listed specific instructions for healthcare professionals to don personal protective equipment, to protect themselves while caring for patients, and to take it off in the contained areas when finished. Trained observers also watch closely to ensure healthcare professionals are using safe practices in the donning and doffing procedures.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, severe headache, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, stomach pain and/or unexplained bleeding or bruising, according to the CDC. The disease, however, is not an airborne illness and is primarily transferred through direct contact between broken skin or mucous membranes, and the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person who is already showing symptoms.

“If an asymptomatic person is just in the incubation period, then you don’t have to worry about catching Ebola from that person,” said Rush Emergency Room Physician, Yanina Purim-Shem-Tov on the Rush website. “So, for instance, if you are sitting next to a person on a plane who is in the incubation period, you are not going to catch Ebola from that person.” The incubation period can last between two and 21 days before an infected person shows symptoms.

The National Institutes of Health announced initial human testing of a vaccine developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and GlaxoSmithKline in September to determine safety and appropriate immune responses. There is currently no FDA approved vaccination for Ebola. “This is the first of several Phase 1 clinical trials,” according to the CDC,