Ohio State is ramping up its preparedness efforts to combat the Ebola virus after it was confirmed that someone with the virus was in the state six days, Oct. 8-13. Meanwhile, some students with family and friends in the Cleveland and Akron areas where the patient with the virus was visiting, said they’re worried about it spreading, while others said they’re confident health officials will keep it contained.
OSU spokeswoman Liz Cook said OSU is monitoring the Ebola outbreak.
“The university, including experts at the Wexner Medical Center, is continuing efforts that began in August to prepare for the possibility of a suspect or confirmed EVD case within the university or within the Central Ohio community,” Cook said in a Wednesday email.
Amber Joy Vinson — a 29-year-old nurse who flew out of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Monday after visiting family members in Akron — was diagnosed with the Ebola virus a day later.
On Tuesday — a day after returning to Dallas —Vinson reported a low-grade fever and was isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said she was being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
According the CDC website, Ebola can only be spread from contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a person or animal who is infected with or has died from Ebola.
Less than two weeks ago, at least one doctor at OSU said the chances of Ebola spreading to Central Ohio were slim.
“Very, very low. The way to mitigate the Ebola spread is to put the patient in isolation and those they have been in contact with in isolation,” said Dr. Christina Liscynesky, an assistant professor in the OSU Wexner Medical Center Department of Internal Medicine’s division of infectious diseases on Oct. 2. “We have very many resources in the United States to handle these things.”
Cook said the university is continuing its prevention efforts in light of Vinson’s diagnosis.
“We hope that Central Ohio is actually a low risk area for a confirmed case of EVD, however, given the size of Columbus, we continue to prepare for ‘suspect/true’ cases where a patient with a travel history/potential exposure and with symptoms of EVD may present at any of our locations,” she said.
University leaders are working with the Wexner Medical Center, the College of Public Health, and Student Life’s Student Health Services given the virus’ potential connection to Ohio.
OSU is also collaborating with the Columbus Public Health as well as the Ohio Department of Health, Cook said.The university has developed a screening tool for the disease and educational tools to familiarize Medical Center staff with the Ebola virus, she added.
“We have participated in multiple conference calls and meetings with leaders at other hospitals in Central Ohio region about preparedness efforts,” Cook said. ”Our goal is to remain at a high level of preparedness to reduce the risk of exposure as well as rapidly implement protocols for providing care in our medical facilities or respond to public health concerns across campus.”
Still, some students from the Cleveland area said the recent news has them uneasy.
“After hearing about the infected nurse traveling from Cleveland, it frightened me because I was actually just home visiting this weekend,” said Annemarie Paravalos, a second-year in nursing from Cleveland. “It’s scary to think that my family or I could have come in contact with someone who was infected,” Paravalos said.
Others like Colin Angelotti, a fourth-year in construction systems management, who is also originally from Cleveland, said he has hope the disease won’t spread within the state.
“It is unbelievable that Ms. Vinson thought it would be appropriate to fly on a commercial flight having just treated a patient with Ebola,” Angelotti said in an email. “I am optimistic that the Ohio Department of Health has the proper protocol ready to quarantine and contain this disease.”
Katie Widman of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, located about 24 miles from Cleveland, is a second-year marketing major who was alarmed after hearing the news but, like Angelotti, she said she has faith in Ohio’s health system.
“The news of a connection between the Ebola virus and Cleveland was very unsettling at first,” Widman said. “But I think that out of any city, Cleveland is one of the most equipped to handle the situation and eradicate any chance of further contact due to their prominent health facilities.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also acknowledged Ohio’s strong health care system in a statement he issued yesterday in response to the Ebola incident in the Buckeye state.
“Ohio has a sophisticated state and local public health network that has been preparing for this possibility for several months and those plans are now being activated,” the statement read.
“The Department of Health’s epidemiologists are on-site in Summit County to support local efforts and are in ongoing communication with the CDC to make sure we have the most up-to-date information.”
Although Kasich’s statement said individuals who did not have direct contact with Vinson are at a low risk of contracting the virus, he added that precautionary measures are of the utmost importance at this time.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that officials are working to identify individuals who might have been exposed to the disease — like those who were in contact with Vinson — so that they can be monitored “in a way that allows us to make certain that the disease does not spread further.”
CDC officials are set to travel to Ohio as early as Wednesday evening to assist in efforts combating the virus.
Ohioans who have questions about Ebola can call a 24/7 call center that the Ohio Department of Health established Wednesday.
Vinson likely contracted the Ebola virus while caring for patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, who died Oct. 8. That was the first documented case in the United States. Vinson is the second nurse to have been diagnosed with the virus in Dallas, the first being Nina Pham who is in “improved condition” as of Wednesday afternoon.
Frontier Airlines — the airline Vinson flew on — issued a statement soon after being notified of their infected passenger, saying Vinson hadn’t exhibited any symptoms or sign of illness while on the flight.
The CDC issued a similar statement and reached out to Vinson’s 132 fellow passengers on the Frontier flight from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth, asking that they identify themselves to the CDC so that interviews can be conducted to ensure no one else was infected.
Frontier Airlines was cleaned twice before being put back into service Wednesday. Certain areas of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport have been disinfected as well.