Updated personal protective equipment covers healthcare workers head-to-toe from Ebola

Posted at 5:37 PM, Oct 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-29 20:30:05-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – History’s largest Ebola epidemic has infected more than 10,000 people and claimed more than 4,900 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Although West Michigan healthcare officials say the threat of contracting the flu is more likely than Ebola, local hospitals have their hands full and say they are prepared.

Spectrum health officials told FOX 17 they’ve prepared since July, working closely with local agencies and the CDC. They said they’re “confident in their strong team.”

As it stands as of Wednesday evening, Kent County Health Department officials said they are still monitoring one patient, a recent traveler from West Africa, in the event he or she develops Ebola.

The personal protective equipment (PPE) that Spectrum Health healthcare workers will wear if they care for patient suspected of having Ebola covers employees head to toe. From two sets of gloves on their hands, hood and mask, to boots on their feet, they are completely covered.

"We still don't know how those Dallas nurses got infected, because they were wearing personal protective equipment,” said Dr. Dorine Berriel-Cass, Spectrum Health manager of infection prevention. “There was a big focus about the bare skin around the neck."

Each healthcare worker would work with an expert trained “buddy” while suiting up, and then removing, their PPE. Using a checklist that Spectrum Health officials said may be improved and updated daily, that buddy helps to ensure that every single step is done correctly, while the healthcare worker sanitizes their gloves before every single piece of gear is taken off.

Again, according to the CDC, Ebola is contagious only when a person is showing symptoms.

Then it is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, which doctors say is the major threat.

"The patients have really a large volume of body fluids that are released, usually vomiting and diarrhea, reported to be on a level of five to 10 liters a day,” said Dr. David Dobbie, Spectrum Health medical doctor. “As you might imagine that creates special risk for healthcare workers."

About 100 people fly into the U.S. from West Africa every day, according to the Kent County Health Department Director Adam London. As of Wednesday, London said they are monitoring one person who recently traveled to West Africa. That person is not in isolation, and they are contacted twice per day for their temperature and overall health.

“That individual’s temperature is great, their health is great,” said London. “They’re well within that 21 day incubation period.”

London told FOX 17 that this person monitored was not involved in healthcare work in Africa, and did not come into contact with anyone who was sick or died from Ebola.

Spectrum Health officials say their approximately 23,000 employees have been educated on Ebola safety and trained appropriately.