Newport News, Va. - Last week a man with Ebola-like symptoms was admitted into Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News. The man tested negative for the deadly virus, but events like that are what the hospital says it prepares for.
"Pretty quickly he was identified and isolated," says Dr. Gary Kavit, the director for emergency services at Riverside, who treated the patient.
The man had recently traveled to Africa.
“He had fever and other symptoms consistent with considering Ebola," Kavit says. "I felt that we were prepared. I felt safe. We had proper protection for me and my staff. This is what we prepared for."
For weeks, Kavit says Riverside and other Hampton Roads hospitals have been prepping for a potential outbreak, coordinating their plans along with CDC guidelines
"We have very specific precautions on isolation of those patients," he says.
Eight isolation rooms are available at Riverside.
"There’s negative pressure so the air in this hallway is being sucked into the room and so there's not positive pressure in the inside where germs that might be aerosolized might come out into the hallways," Kavit says.
There's also the personal isolation gear. Staff members that come in contact with a potential Ebola patient are required to wear protective, fluid resistant suits before entering the isolation room.
Before any suits are put on Kavit says the first step is identifying an infected patient in the waiting room.
"We are putting information on our sign in sheets,” he says.
The patient sign-in sheets now ask if the patient has traveled to Africa or has been in close contact with anyone who traveled to Africa. If they have symptoms, Kavit says they're given protective clothing on the spot, then taken straight to isolation rooms.
As for a possible outbreak in Hampton Roads, he says they’re ready.
“There are flights that are landing at Dulles airport that come from West Africa so we know that there are people from Virginia that could present a danger,” Kavit says. “We're prepared and that's all we can do. I don't think the general public has any indication to be alarmed."
Dr. Kavit says Ebola isn't the only thing on their radar right now. There's also Enterovirus and the flu that he says hospitals in our area are also preparing for.