In the highly unlikely scenario that a case of the deadly viral infection Ebola appeared in the Oxford area, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi’s Chief of Emergency Medicine Jason Waller, D.O., says his team is ready to respond safely and appropriately.
“Just last week, we participated in a conference call with officials from the Mississippi State Health Department who briefed us on the epidemic in Africa and the couple of cases being treated in the U.S. involving missionaries who contracted the disease in Africa,” Dr. Waller explained. “The first thing people in our area need to realize is it’s not something we expect to present itself in Mississippi or Oxford. The disease is spread only through contact with bodily fluids, not through the air as is the case with Influenza.”
Dr. Waller added that educating the public on the risks of infectious disease is a responsibility he takes seriously — whether it’s in the examination room or out in the community. Although Ebola is a deadly disease with no know cure and appears to be spreading in the African countries of Sierra Lione, Liberia and Guinea, Dr. Waller believes the CDC and U.S Health Department have put protocols in place to prevent a massive outbreak in the U.S..
“Ebola takes eight to 10 days to incubate and is only spread by direct contact, so we have a way to monitor those health workers who may be at risk working in Africa,” he said. “No cases, as far as we know, have originated in America. In the highly remote instance that we suspected someone had the disease, we would follow CDC guidelines closely, most certainly while staying in direct contact with the top experts in the world. We would look for symptoms such as high fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting and be ready to isolate the patient and probably organize transport to a Trauma I Medical Center.”
Dr. Waller concedes that the same symptoms are common for other conditions, including the flu, but he adds that a key detail would alert doctors to a possible Ebola case: has the patient had been in one of the three affected African counties in the previous 21 days?
“A case here is unlikely, but we remain prepared, knowing our community is the home of a major university with international connections and attendees and faculty from around the world,” Dr. Waller said.
As a 11-year veteran of emergency medicine, Dr. Waller says he and his team have the training and expertise to handle just about any disaster situation. Baptist Memorial has a disaster preparedness and security director and an infectious control nurse who take part in regular training updates from the Mississippi Health Department, including an annual mass casualty drill. Dr. Waller says the Baptist Memorial staff works closely with Mississippi State Medical Assistance team to prepare and respond to emergencies.
Dr. Waller says the emergency medicine environment in Oxford is unpredictable. The patients he sees range from car crash victims to people involved in home and farming accidents, with plenty of patients suffering more routine illnesses in the mix. Nothing as exotic as an Ebola outbreak, but a professional calling that offers the dedicated physician great personal satisfaction. “The rewarding part of my job is being here for a patient in their time of greatest need,” he said.
Dr. Waller lives in Oxford with his wife Lona and three children.He went to medical school in Kansas City but is an Ole Miss graduate.
For more on the ability of the University of Mississippi Medical Center to deal with the Ebola threat, click here.
Andy Knef is editor of HottyToddy.com. You can contact Andy about this story at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com.
Ebola Not Expected in Oxford — ER Chief Says Baptist Memorial Prepared
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