CHICAGO (CBS/AP) –– Screening for the Ebola virus began Thursday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, as local health experts sought to reassure the public they are ready to help contain any outbreak.
Customs and health officials at O’Hare started taking the temperatures of passengers from three West African countries. Up to 25 passengers arrive daily from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Federal officials say the entry screenings add another layer of protection to halt the spread of the virus that has killed thousands. Screeners use no-touch thermometers to try to find passengers with fevers.
Presence Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago has long been designated the intake hospital for sick international travelers transferred from O’Hare.
Chicago Department of Public Health spokesman Ryan Gage says the department is working closely with Resurrection hospital “in case there is a need for medical evaluation of a patient exhibiting possible symptoms of Ebola.”
Also Thursday, nurses and physicians at Rush University Medical Center received special training on how to protect themselves from infection.
The front-line healthcare workers donned special protective gear -– including gloves sealed with duct tape, impervious gowns and booties – during a simulated visit with an Ebola patient. The training comes as the hospital ramps up its protocol.
“We know a lot more about Ebola than we even did a month ago, and so we’re preparing our staff at a level (that’s) greater than what the CDC is recommending,” said Patty Nedved, training coordinator, referring to the Centers for Disease Control.
That includes taking extra precautions when taking off protective medical gear and using a buddy system to make sure protocol is followed.
Despite breaches that led to Ebola infections in two health care workers at Texas Health Presbyterian, where an infected patient died, the Chicago health workers have volunteered to care for Ebola patients here.
Doctors and nurses who suit up to care for Ebola patients would stay in the patients’ rooms for four- to six-hour shifts.
On Friday, CBS 2 has learned, Mayor Emanuel plans to hold a hastily called cabinet meeting at City Hall. It will include hospital and health department officials. The goal: to gauge their readiness if Ebola should come to Chicago.
Also, the City Council’s Health and Environment Committee chairman is gearing up to hold hearings on the same vital issue.
“It’s landed in the U.S. The question is — are we prepared?” 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas said.
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