Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Ebola Update

Ebola Update

ebola-update- image0A young nurse is in the same Dallas hospital as a patient where, only a few days ago, she was providing care for the Dallas index Ebola patient. As we all know, sadly, the first patient for whom she was providing care died. Now she and a fellow health care worker have tested positive for the Ebola virus. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the man who died, as well as these two health care professionals (and all who are dealing with this deadly virus—both here and in West Africa.)

This turn of events, where health care workers contract Ebola, while disturbing news, should not precipitate panic. It should precipitate concern and a strong sense of responsibility that we must prepare ourselves to be ready to serve our patients and to protect ourselves. We cannot serve our patients if we, ourselves, become ill. That is one of the first rules of being a health care provider.

We know from experts that Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids of a sick person, the remains of someone who has died of Ebola, or exposure to objects such as needles that have been contaminated. Furthermore, experts tell us that the illness has an average 8-10 day incubation period (although it could be from 2 to 21 days). People are not contagious before symptoms like fever develop.

"Texas Tech Physicians and its health care staff are always vigilant and plan for any risk brought about by infectious disease," says Ahnna Parker, RN, MSN, Director of Nursing for TTP. "The recent Ebola cases in Texas have heightened our awareness, and we are monitoring all communication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for any updates to make sure our patients, health care staff and students remain safe and healthy."

Special precautions around Ebola patients are certainly indicated and can be explained by Ahnna and others, and by looking at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. If you have questions, please talk with Ahnna. We believe we have a solid plan and resources to respond appropriately, but learn what you can do to protect yourself. For example, know where personal protective equipment (PPE) is stored and how to properly remove and dispose of PPE if it has to be utilized. Texas Tech Physicians is continuously monitoring new developments and updated recommendations from the CDC to maintain the highest level of preparedness. Moreover, we are very fortunate to have world class board certified infectious disease experts on our faculty that are guiding organizational proactive readiness.

While it would surprise many in the nation, Lubbock is an international city. We have students here from all over the world. Lubbock exports millions of bales of cotton each year and representatives of other countries travel here regularly to negotiate such deals. We sell irrigation equipment and aviation equipment manufactured in Lubbock to buyers throughout the world. Again, international travelers come here to negotiate these arrangements. Perhaps a most visible tangible symbol, we have the International Visitors Center literally just across the street from the TTUHSC. I am proud of all of these facts -- it is great to be diverse and part of a grand "global village." But, our “international status” underscores the clear need for prudence and diligence.

On a very practical note, as we start this winter season, the situation reminds us that hand washing is still the best known way to prevent the transmission of disease. Remember, it involves five simple and effective steps: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry. According to the CDC (and what our mothers and grandmothers told us), regular hand washing can help us remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.