State and local health and law enforcement agencies talk Ebola

By: Lauren Fabrizi

Although health officials say an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Lancaster County is highly unlikely, state and local health and law enforcement agencies met Tuesday to discuss tactics if a person were to contract it.

More than 40 of them, including Lincoln Fire and Rescue, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency and both CHI Health St. Elizabeth and Bryan Health weighed in on plans of action at the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

“Extreme value in having a session like this today in the planning stages,” Dr. Ed Mlinek of Bryan Health said.

While some Americans may fear there will be an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., medical officials here aren’t that worried.

“Ebola is a serious disease, but no more so than some of the other diseases processes that we deal with on a daily basis,” Roger Bonin of LFR said. “Influenza, tuberculosis, hepatitis C.”

In Lancaster County, agencies are trained for all kinds of emergency situations, including virus outbreaks. Since August, St. Elizabeth and Bryan Health staff have undergone extra training in the case of a potential Ebola patient.

Tuesday, all agencies present talked about what they’d do if a person was admitted for Ebola–like symptoms, if a person contracted Ebola and if a person died from the virus.

Both St. E’s and Bryan Health would have a small team of physicians, nurses and other staff in place to treat potential Ebola patients. It’s unknown if those patients would stay at either of the two hospitals or would be treated at UNMC in Omaha. But hospital officials said they have isolation units in place on their grounds.

One of the biggest concerns is that LFR and hospital staff would run out of PPE or personal protective equipment.

“That’s probably the biggest road block or potential road blocks that we have,” Dr. Michael Ferris of CHI Health St. Elizabeth said. “We have enough to get started, but we may need more in the short term.”

That’s something officials are working to figure out.

The Lincoln–Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency was also on hand.

“Emergency Management is always there. Our motto, our mission statement is helping you prepare,” emergency manager Jim Davidsaver said. “So it’s whatever I can help you to prepare benefits all of us.”

Officials plan to meet again in the near future for more talks on the virus.