La. health officer says state ready for Ebola, but he doesn’t expect outbreak here

    State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry says the state is working to secure the equipment hospitals would need to take care of a patient with Ebola if necessary, adding the state is also taking utmost precaution to prevent having to tackle such a case.

    “To say that every hospital has enough [protective gear], that would be 48 sets a day, and those are expensive,” Guidry said as guest speaker of the Baton Rouge Press Club this afternoon. “If you try to order it, it’s on backorder.”

    Each suits costs about $12,000, Guidry says.

    “Some of them have [the suits], just not in the amount that’s needed,” he said.

    DHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins added that hospitals could transfer suits among themselves as needed. The state is also sending health workers to the homes of seven individuals in Louisiana who travelled to West African countries with cases of Ebola for 21 days, the maximum incubation period of the virus, and monitoring them for symptoms.

    “The public requires it,” Guidry said, “and we feel more comfortable if we get eyes on it.”

    Guidry added that individuals are not contagious unless they are showing symptoms severe enough to be in the hospital.

    “That person has to be very sick,” Guidry said. “They probably aren’t much risk, it’s once you start shedding the virus.”

    The state is trying to balance the rights of those individuals with the responsibility to protect the public, he said.

    “The way to keep people from getting exposed is to reduce the exposure,” Guidry said. “We don’t know what the risk is.”

    Guidry stressed that these individuals most likely do not have Ebola because they were not caretakers for Ebola patients. The state is taking such precaution, even asking those traveling from West African countries to a conference in New Orleans not to come, because of the hurdles it would need to overcome to protect the public if a case were to be discovered in Louisiana.

    The state would need to conduct a search of who the infected individual came in contact with, to find out “who shook hands with this individual, who may have been within three feet of this individual,” Guidry said.

    Louisiana does not have an operating incinerator that it would need to destroy medical waste from an Ebola patient, but it could have one up and running in less than 24 hours if necessary, Guidry said. —Kelly Connelly

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