DURHAM, NC – While Duke officials say the risk of infection from Ebola remains extremely low in the United States, they are taking precautions to ensure the safety of patients, students, faculty and staff in the Triangle and around the world.
“Duke Medicine has been preparing for contingencies, no matter how unlikely they may seem, should a possible Ebola patient present in one of its hospitals or clinics,” said Cameron Wolfe, MD, with Duke’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “Planning has been done in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the N.C. State Department of Health and Human Services, as well as leaders from Duke’s Division of Infectious Diseases and Emergency Preparedness.”
Ever since Ebola began spreading in West Africa, Duke officials have been monitoring the situation closely with infectious disease experts in Duke Medicine. The CDC has emphasized that Ebola is not an airborne virus and cannot be spread through casual contact. It can be contracted only through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as the blood or vomit of an infected patient.
Medical protocols have been established and are in effect across Duke Medicine to screen all patients entering the system for possible risk of exposure to Ebola.
“Any patient thought to be at risk as a result of screening questions will be interviewed by infectious disease experts to determine any next steps,” Wolfe said. “Specific plans are in place to ensure the utmost safety and care for patients and health care providers, including the use of personal protective equipment for all emergency departments and clinics.”
Duke Medicine is also coordinating closely with Duke’s Student Health Center to ensure the safety of students.
Duke has imposed full country travel restrictions on Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone for undergraduate students, and all graduate students, faculty and staff members are discouraged from traveling to these countries.
“At any given time, Duke has students, faculty and staff in locations around the world, and conditions related to Ebola could change quickly based on potential cases that may arise in other countries,” said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for Administration and Duke’s emergency coordinator. “It is critical that Duke be able to identify the location of individuals traveling internationally and provide support as conditions warrant.”
All undergraduate students are required to register their plans with the International Travel Registry so Duke can identify their location and provide support if needed. Graduate students, faculty and staff are strongly encouraged, but not required to use the International Travel Registry.
“The travel registry enables us to move quickly to provide assistance when something unexpected happens abroad,” Cavanaugh said. “We’ve had instances of personal injuries and illnesses, as well as natural disasters and political unrest. The travel registry is where we go first to determine who may need help.”
Duke has also established a process by which any student, faculty or staff member who has traveled to West Africa recently must contact Employee Occupational Health & Wellness or the Student Health Center to consult with medical staff prior to returning to campus.
“Duke’s emergency management team continues to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as new information becomes available,” Cavanaugh said.
For more information about Ebola, visit the special website created by the Duke Global Health Institute.