University Hospital prepares for Ebola

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COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 News asked University of Missouri health officials Wednesday how they are educating and preparing nurses, doctors and physicians to handle Ebola should it become a threat in mid-Missouri. Two nurses in Texas have been infected after handling a patient who later died of the disease.

"It's a pretty specialized skill to have and you don't want to have an amateur doing this," Lynelle Phillips of the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri said.

She said the nursing school is working with the curriculum to include education about the virus. Students are learning preventative measures to take when working with clients during their clinicals and isolation precautions.

All nursing students learn how to properly dress themselves when dealing with infectious patients during in-class simulation labs.

"This is something you're really going to have to develop an expertise in to care for one of these Ebola patients," Phillips said.

If the hospital were to have a patient with Ebola, Phillips said, staff members taking care of the patient would need to have the expertise and the practice to put on and take off the personal protective equipment.

The Broadway Urgent Care center is also take small steps in preparing for the virus.

Dr. Eric Bettis said no major changes in the way they treat patients have been put in to place, but the nursing staff is being urged to ask more in-depth questions during the initial evaluation, including questions about whether the patient has recently traveled in areas where the virus is prevelant. If patients describe irregular symptoms, then the medical staff will take extra precautionary measures to treat the patient.

"It's not like the flu where you can just swab someone, so it's a little hard to detect," Bettis said.

Phillips said, "This is tough, it's a new experience for us, a new virus and we're all learning as we go, and hopefully we won't learn things the hard way."