Local emergency personnel take precautions for Ebola

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) As the nation continues to keep a close eye on the threat of Ebola, local medical dispatchers and our airport are taking extra precautions.

“We’ve been working very closely with the local board of health to detect what class of patients may be at high-risk or what signs or symptoms would be most likely to have the Ebola virus,” said Melissa Freehling, Director of Communications for Three Rivers Ambulance Authority.

Those signs include headache, abdominal pain, flu-like symptoms and unexplained bleeding.

If the caller experiences any of them, dispatchers will issue what’s called the Emerging Infectious Disease Surveillance Tool. It’s provided by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, which works closely with the CDC and consists of 16 questions.

“The key thing that we’re looking for right now is travel history, specifically travel to Africa, West Africa and those five specific counties where the outbreak has been,” said Freehling.

TRAA has issued the new tool to between 12 and 20 callers per day.

“We have not had any suspicious cases yet,” said Freehling.

If someone was suspicious, personnel would notify responders immediately, who would put on this personal protection equipment.

“Because it can be easily spread through any blood and body fluids, through skin, mucus membranes, we don’t want to cross contaminate anyone else,” said Freehling.

Fort Wayne International Airport has direct flights from Dallas, Chicago and Detroit where international flights come into.

Chief of Public Safety Stan Klepper doesn’t predict they will screen at this time likely because our airport doesn’t have a customs checkpoint.

Still, they have brushed up on their emergency plan.

“I believe the odds of an active Ebola case being at the Fort Wayne International Airport is small. Rest assured, staff is trained and equipment is in place should it occur, that we will respond with due caution,” said Klepper.

TRAA’s tool has been used before for illnesses like MERS in the past.

Officials said additional questioning won’t affect response time.

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