Patient in isolation in Honolulu hospital, officials say Ebola a possibility

HONOLULU (KHON) — The Department of Health has confirmed a patient is currently in isolation and undergoing testing in Honolulu.

The Hawaii Nurses Association said the person is being treated at The Queen’s Medical Center.

Officials told KHON2 Ebola is a possibility, however the patient has yet to be specifically tested for the virus.

“We are early in the investigation of a patient — very, very, early, who we’re investigating that might have Ebola,” said Dr. Melissa Viray, deputy state epidemiologist. “It’s very possible that they do and they have Ebola, I think it’s also more likely that they have another condition that presents with similar symptoms.”

Dr. Viray said the patient could have a number of illnesses including Ebola, flu, malaria and typhoid.

Dr. Viray wouldn’t confirm any details about the patient, symptoms, or if the person had recently traveled to West Africa. But she did say red flags for Ebola include fever and recent travel to that area.

“Why is this person being isolated?” KHON2 asked.

“When we’ve asked the hospitals to tell us about is anyone with a travel history, and anyone with a fever, and when those things come together, we’ve asked them to be very careful and in an abundance of caution while you’re working, for whatever else might be going on, also make sure you isolate against Ebola, just in case,” she said.

“So it sounds like this person does have a fever and recently traveled to West Africa,” KHON2 asked.

“Again, I can’t be the one to confirm that,” Dr. Viray said.

The patient is currently being kept in a regular room and anyone who goes in or out must wear protective gear, officials said.

“They’re monitoring who goes in and out of that room and making sure that everybody as safe as possible, while the patient is being evaluated for Ebola and what other conditions that patient might have,” Dr. Viray said.

“Should the public concerned?” KHON2 asked.

“No, absolutely not. Like I said, this is a possible case we’re investigating. We don’t know if this is Ebola or a number of other conditions,” she said.

Health officials say it’s too early to say if the person will be tested.

There are 1,400 nurses assigned to work at The Queen’s Medical Center. The hospital has assured them that procedures are in place to protect them while the patient is being monitored.

A message sent to all employees Wednesday said that the hospital is “evaluating a patient for possible symptoms that may be consistent with Ebola.”

The union that represents the nurses was tipped off about the message Wednesday afternoon.

Joan Craft, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association, immediately contacted the hospital for assurance that safety procedures are in place to protect her members.

“Blood and fluid procedures are safe, but there are a lot of contagious things you can come in contact with,” she told KHON2. “Ebola is very frightening, but procedures are safe and we just want to make sure everyone knows that.”

The HNA also wanted to make sure that if someone is pregnant or otherwise uncomfortable dealing with the patient, that he or she does not have to be involved in the monitoring of the patient.

Experts gave us that reassurance last month and said then that unless you traveled to an area that was experiencing an outbreak, the risk of contracting Ebola is very low.

There is no room designed specifically for Ebola at Queen’s Medical Center, but the hospital says it is equipped to deal with the virus if needed.

“If someone showed up in the ER with suspected Ebola symptoms, they would immediately be placed in an isolation room,” Erlaine Bello, Queen’s Medical Center infectious disease specialist, previously told KHON2. “The door would be closed at all times. There would be a facilities log kept of everyone who entered the room and anyone who entered the room at a minimum would be wearing gloves, eye protection, goggles and a mask and impermeable gown.”

Dr. Bello said major hospitals and the health department have a good relationship with the federal CDC and that the state itself has the resources and the expertise to handle a case of Ebola if it were to appear here in the islands.

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