Los Angeles

LA County “Much Better Prepared Today” for Ebola Cases

Health officials prepare for the "very real possibility" that there could be a case in LA County.

As the CDC and Texas health officials are being criticized for their handling of the three Ebola cases in America, Southern California officials are trying to reassure the public they are prepared should Ebola arrive.

Health officials say urgent care clinics in South Los Angeles would be the front-line defense against Ebola.

If someone were infected, they would likely walk into one of these clinics first. And the county says it will be ready.

Ebola is not here.

That was the most important message from LA County health officials Thursday. Health care workers said if Ebola arrives, they'll be ready.

"We are much better prepared today than we were yesterday and in working with our other partners we will be even more prepared tomorrow," said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, LA County's interim health officer.

They say three key measures have been put in place in ERs and urgent care clinics.

First, checking if patients coming in with flu-like symptoms have traveled to West Africa.

Those who have it would be isolated and quarantined.

Also, if there's an Ebola case, making sure health care workers have proper protective gear.

"We have gowns that are thinner and paper-based but those are permeable," said Fred Huicochea, a registered nurse at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. "We can't use those. They have to be impermeable."

That means full body protective suits, the kind that nurses complain weren't available at the Texas hospital where two nurses contracted Ebola from a man who was being treated there.

LA County officials say they have those suits and are getting more.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, the deputy director of the LA County Health Services department, said that while cases are somewhat less likely to occur here, "we do recognize that it is indeed a very real possibility that there could be a case here in LA County."

Officials say protocols for cleaning, decontamination, and waste disposal are also being put in place.

Much of it is already in effect for other infectious diseases. But everyone here acknowledges Ebola is new and different.

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