State and local officials gathered at Humboldt General Hospital Wednesday
to consider what Ebola would look like in rural Nevada.
The "Ebola Virus Tabletop" brought together representatives from
HGH, local law enforcement, the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral
Health, Nevada State EMS, the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory and
representatives from rural hospitals throughout the state.
The exercise was sponsored by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health,
Rural Community Health Services, and Humboldt General Hospital.
HGH EMS Rescue Captain Fergus Laughridge facilitated the three-hour discussion.
Laughridge said the exercise was an important way for participants to evaluate
current response concepts, plans and capabilities in response to the viral
disease that has killed more than 10,000 across the world, including two
in the United States.
"Last fall, Ebola was all over the news," said Laughridge, "and
it was the center of many hospital-related discussions."
"That conversation has now died down," he continued, "but
the danger has not. Ebola is still a threat out there, and this exercise
was just one more way to ensure that rural health care and law enforcement
officials have the most up-to-date information and protocols in place."
The exercise considered the scenario of a 32-year-old man who presents
to the HGH Emergency Department at 7 p.m. on a Friday with a three-day
history of fever, muscle pain and severe headache.
The group of 30-plus members, including some who participated by phone,
then played out the scenario by considering the steps that would allow
them to protect the patient as well as healthcare workers and the public.
Laughridge said the group considered screening tools, isolation procedures,
notification protocols and the challenges surrounding both the epidemiology
and transport of an infected patient. They also considered how to communicate
with the public and receiving hospitals.
"I think the group found this exercise very valuable in reinforcing
what they already know, as well as filling in some gaps here and there," he said.
Laughridge said the group was grateful to have access to real-time information
from state officials who have recently dealt with the measles outbreak
and less commonly considered infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV.
Laughridge said the mercury contamination at Winnemucca Junior High School
in February also allowed local officials to provide valuable feedback.
Similar preparedness activities will likely continue in the coming months
and years, he added.
"As we continue to watch Ebola unfold and possibly become a more global
disease, these kinds of activities will become increasingly critical,"
Regardless of the future of Ebola, however, the captain said Wednesday's
exercise helped officials prepare for any emergency scenario which requires
a high degree of coordination between health care, law enforcement and