UT Health professionals discuss proper Ebola protocol

HOUSTON - Health professionals say there is an elevated concern, but clinics have safety measures in place to make sure their staffs are protected at all times.

Health officials confirmed Sunday that the worker who treated Thomas Eric Duncan wore a gown, gloves, mask and shield.

"I think most likely somehow the protective gear was not at 100 percent and unfortunately this poor health care worker contracted the disorder," said Dr. John Higgins, with University of Texas Health.

Similar protective gear was worn by the nurse in Spain, who was confirmed to have Ebola after a possible mishap with her gloves.

Health professionals agree protective gear is key while working with Ebola patients, but now there's a heightened concern with two health care workers who were well protected have gotten the disease.

Higgins said there are two possible explanations for how the nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan went from the one administering care to the one needing medial attention.

He said one possibility is "a mask that was not tightly fitting and then the patient coughing or sneezing in their presence, so a little bit of that material was in the air and breathed in by the health care worker."

He also said another possibility of infection could have been during the decontamination process.

Higgins said, "When you actually take off the gear, it's important to do a thorough wash down after that because, as you know, taking off dirty clothes, sometimes the dirt can get on the skin."

While the first person to actually contract Ebola in the United States is alarming, Doctor Higgins is confident the threat will not spread to the masses.

"The good news is all of the outbreaks we have had of Ebola so far have been properly contained, " he explained. "Don't worry too much. Just be vigilant. I would recommend don't travel to places that have known Ebola cases."

Higgins also said to avoid close contact to someone who has visited areas where Ebola present and go as far as to not shaking hands to keep yourself protected.

Local 2 has learned employees at UT Health Clinics also wear footies, caps and go to a step above Centers for Disease Control guidelines by wearing two sets of gloves for added protection.

Bob Emery, the vice president of health safety at UT Health, told Local 2 it's critical for workers to go over proper procedures at this time.

"We want to make sure our clinics are squared away," he said. "If an individual were to show up we would make sure we would have the proper screening measures in place and that person would be treated properly."

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