Colorado hospitals advised to be alert for Ebola

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DENVER (AP) — Health officials advised Colorado hospitals Wednesday to prepare for the possibility of seeing patients with the Ebola virus after the first U.S. case was confirmed in Texas.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said early recognition would be critical to stopping the spread of the virus. The department said no cases of the disease have been found in Colorado.

Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa. According to the World Health Organization, more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease.

A doctor at the University of Colorado Hospital said Wednesday the facility already has a chain of command and a plan in place to deal with emergencies like a plane crash or an anthrax infection — or a possible Ebola patient.

"We handle a lot of this in a similar way because communication has to be very clear," said Dr. Michelle Barron, the hospital's medical director of infection prevention and control. "Obviously when Ebola became a little more concerning, our messaging became more consistent as, for instance, asking if you have been to Africa."

Barron said even before the first Ebola patient was diagnosed in the United States, the hospital was equipped with safety gear that was typically used to deal with other infectious diseases like tuberculosis, measles or dangerous strains of the flu.

"Thank goodness there was nothing special that we needed, because it is probably harder to get now," she said.

Barron added that most hospitals in the state already have a "generic" emergency plan in place that could be applied to dealing with an Ebola outbreak.

The airline passenger who brought Ebola into the U.S. initially went to a Dallas emergency room last week but was sent home even though he told a nurse he had been in disease-ravaged West Africa.

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