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MetroHealth Doctor Says Ebola Prepardness Could Help With Coronavirus

Dr. Amy Ray MetroHealth Director Infectious Disease Dept. [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]
Dr. Amy Ray MetroHealth Director Infectious Disease Dept.

Information is changing so rapidly about the deadly coronavirus that it is difficult to keep up, said Dr. Amy Ray, MetroHealth’s infectious disease department director.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus is spreading globally and across the United States.

“It’s my understanding that of the five cases diagnosed in the United States, those patients are doing well clinically. However, they're staying in the hospital for an extended period of time to avoid contagion,” Ray said.

Since patients are being kept for several days as a form of quarantine, hospitals need to be prepared to have a special designated space for these cases, as the virus continues to spread, she said.

MetroHealth has a history of handling infectious diseases crises. The hospital is the only Ebola treatment center in Ohio and the hospital has a two-bed, special disease care unit, she said.

“During the Ebola scare that happened in 2014 and 2015, Metro agreed to be the Ebola treatment center for the state of Ohio," Ray said. "The processes around those details were developed then and continue now."

That included specially constructed rooms with contained air circulation, scheduling on-call staff and prepardness drills.

Because of the experience with Ebola preparedness, Ray said MetroHealth would be ready to take on a similar role in Ohio if this new virus becomes a major public health threat.

One of the challenges with this emerging infectious disease is that health officials are still determining how contagious it is and if people can transmit infection without having symptoms themselves, she said.

The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are also implementing precautionary measures to prevent the virus from spreading in Northeast Ohio. Those hospital systems, along with MetroHealth, are screening patients in emergency departments and those being admitted to the hospital, to find out if they have recently traveled to China.

Anyone who has recently traveled to China and is feeling ill should seek immediate medical attention. It's also advised to then call the hospital "so that our clinic sites can be aware and triage them quickly,” she said.

There are currently five confirmed cases of coronavirus in four states. More than 60 additional people in the U.S. were being tested for the disease, according to the CDC. There have been no confirmed cases in Ohio.

At least 81 people have died in China from the new virus, officially called "2019 novel coronavirus" (2019-nCoV).”

Marlene Harris-Taylor
Marlene is the director of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.