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Connecticut Prepares After Yale Student Shows Ebola-Like Symptoms

Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen discusses the state's efforts to combat a potential Ebola virus outbreak in a press conference Thursday.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen discusses the state's efforts to combat a potential Ebola virus outbreak in a press conference Thursday. Photo Credit: Courtesy of CT-N

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Connecticut is taking steps to safeguard residents against the deadly Ebola virus after a Yale doctoral student was admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital for evaluation of Ebola-like symptoms , Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday.

Because the symptoms of Ebola such as headaches, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, are similar to those of other viruses or illnesses, it is important for residents to know whether they have been in a situation where they could have contracted Ebola, Malloy said.

“If you’ve been to West Africa and have come into contact with, or believe you may have come into contact with, an individual with Ebola, if you’ve had a close relationship or been in contact with that person, and you have symptoms, you should report to a hospital, no ifs, ands or buts,” Malloy said.

The governor said he is executing quarantine and isolation protocols authorized under an executive order he signed last week, as well as convening a unified response team led by Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen to handle the state’s emergency management efforts.

He is also directing every hospital in the state to conduct drills on how to handle an Ebola case within the next seven days.

The Yale student who recently returned from Liberia contacted their primary care physician Wednesday night to report a fever, Yale-New Haven Hospital officials said Thursday. The student had been on voluntary sequestration and was self-monitoring their health. The student was not doing field work with an Ebola patient while in Liberia, and right now it is just a suspected case.

Richard D’Aquila, president of Yale-New Haven Hospital, said the admission “went very smoothly” on Wednesday night and praised the work of the staff.

“The patient is in isolation and being monitored by our clinical team,” D’Aquila said. “We feel we are well prepared to handle an event like this. We have been preparing for weeks for an Ebola patient. There is a team that drills and rehearses and constantly prepares for events like this.”

Mullen said the state has been in contact with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, as well hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state. She said the Department of Public Health has sent out checklists to all hospitals in the state to measure their preparedness.

“With the information released today about there being a patient at Yale-New Haven Hospital undergoing testing for possible Ebola virus, that raises concerns for everyone in the state,” Mullen said. “Based on responses we have received from all hospitals, we know the degree to which all are taking steps needed to receive a patient and implement the appropriate evaluations in a way that upholds the well being of patients and the safety of healthcare personnel.”

According to the CDC, you cannot get Ebola through air, water or food. Ebola can only be contracted by touching the blood or bodily fluids of somebody who is sick or has died from Ebola, by touching contaminated objects such as needles, or by touching infected animals, their blood or bodily fluids, or their meat.

Preliminary samples have been taken from the patient and tests are being conducted at a lab in Massachusetts, said Dr. Thomas Balcezak, chief medical officer at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

“This individual has been monitoring their health, let their primary care provider know they were running a fever,” Balcezak said. “The patient remains in in-patient services, and remains in good condition.”

Malloy said that if the results come back negative, it means that the patient does not have Ebola. If they come back positive, a second test will be conducted and the CDC will be contacted immediately.

“Right now, somebody has reported with very common symptoms, and has traveled from West Africa,” Malloy said. “If we have reasons to take the next step, we are absolutely prepared and have resources necessary to do that work. The CDC will be notified and will send a team.”

Bob Alpern, dean of the Yale Medical School, said that two individual nurses care for the patient at any time.

“One cares for the patient, and the second nurse makes sure the first nurse is donning and removing protective gear properly,” Alpern said. He added that Yale “will limit the number of staff members who come into contact with the patient.”

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