MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota health officials say they are prepared to handle an Ebola case if it makes its way to the state.

On Saturday, the Minnesota Department of Health held a community information session on Ebola in Brooklyn Park.

The department just named four Minnesota hospitals that will be treatment centers for any Ebola patients.

For several people attending the Ebola-awareness meeting, the topic hits close to home.

“This Ebola stuff is a major disaster in Africa, and I’m a victim of it,” said Jeremiah Sarnor of Brooklyn Center.

Sarnor has lost seven  family members living in west Africa to the virus, including his 18-year-old son.

He came to the meeting out of fear Ebola will spread to Minnesota, where there’s a high Liberian population.

The danger is “not only in Minnesota, but the United States as a whole, because we all live as a family whether you’re from Africa, you’re from Nigeria, you’re from New York,” he said.

The Minnesota Hospital Association has named four hospitals in the state as Ebola treatment centers, including Children’s Hospital in St. Paul.

“About once a month at Children’s we have a child who’s had international travel and fever, and we have to figure out, ‘What do they have? Is it malaria? Is it TB?’ and now, of course, we have Ebola” said Patsy Stinchfield, the director of infection prevention and control at the hospital.

Staff have been training for handling an Ebola case since July.

They’ve also ordered pathogen protection kits and have special quarantine chambers for any potential or confirmed cases.

“Even though Ebola is not airborne, we would put them in that special room until we found out what they had,” she said.

While health officials want the public to be informed, they also don’t want panic.

“I feel quite confident that if an individual shows up with symptoms consistent with Ebola,” said Aaron Devries of the MDH, “hospitals would be well prepared to manage that individual.”

Besides Children’s, the other three designated Ebola treatment centers in Minnesota are the U of M’s Medical Center, Allina Health Unity Hospital in Fridley, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

It’s important to note that while we hear a lot about the death rate for this virus being around 50 percent, health officials emphasize that that figure is for the outbreak in West Africa.

If treated early and in care at a top facility here in Minnesota, the fatality rate should be much lower.

 

Kate Raddatz

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