PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Another hospital in Philadelphia is now preparing to handle patients infected with the Ebola virus.
The Philadelphia Health Commissioner says all of the hospitals in the city have been preparing for Ebola. He says they will all be capable of diagnosing and treating Ebola patients.
However, Action News has learned that the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania will be designated as a treatment center for health care workers infected with the disease. The hospital is in the process of building an air-tight isolation unit.
The hospital released a statement Friday, which reads:
"At Penn Medicine, the safety and protection of all patients and staff is our top priority. To date, we have no patients suspected of or confirmed to have the Ebola virus in our facilities. We are following the CDC's patient screening criteria for Ebola, including both travel history and symptoms that may be associated with the disease. We are prepared to isolate patients suspected of having Ebola in an area that would ensure both optimal medical care for patients and the safety of our staff and other patients. We have conducted refresher training of physicians and clinical staff in the infection control practices required to care for these patients. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania has agreed to be among hospitals to care for U.S. medical workers who contract the virus while working [in] Africa, if needed. With the full support of the City, Commonwealth and Federal agencies, we are confident that we have the resources in place to provide appropriate care to all patients and to protect staff and visitors."
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will be designated as a regional hospital for pediatric patients.
The Health Commissioner said today that the city is following all health protocols. They are getting that out to all the local hospitals and posting useful information on the Health Department's website.
Officials are emphasizing that this is a scary disease, but it's very difficult to catch. You have to be in direct contact with bodily fluids from not only a patient who has Ebola, but from a patient who is showing symptoms of the disease.
Mayor Michael Nutter held a news conference Friday afternoon to assure the public that they are ready to handle any Ebola cases that may emerge in this area.
The mayor said they know what they're doing, and that they have experience along these lines.
They've dealt with other outbreaks like SARS and H1N1 and, he says, they're taking the necessary steps to train emergency responders and anyone else who might come into contact with an Ebola patient.
As for equipment and supplies, the mayor says we always need more. He said he's heard complaints from firefighters and nurses that they don't have enough personal protection equipment. The mayor says we could always use more, and that they are working on that issue as well.
One thing he mentioned is that because this outbreak is concentrated to the western African nations - Liberia, Sierra Leone, New Guinea - that he doesn't want anyone in this area to start stigmatizing people who are from those regions or who may have relatives back there right now.
The mayor said, "I'm asking all Philadelphians and people in the region to please never treat someone differently because they may be, or their family may be, from a particular area that is experiencing a challenge. So let's not have any prejudice or predisposition in our minds and in our hearts about what a person's status may be just because they may emanate from, they may come from a particular country."
As mentioned, Ebola is hard to get, but officials just want to the public to know that they are ready if someone in our region is infected.
So, far there are no reports of any such cases in our area.