PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Pearl River County resident visiting Africa has created quite the scare, but the Pearl River County Hospital staff and first responders want to assure the community there is no reason to panic. Friday, a refresher training course was held at the hospital to remind staff members the best practices to keep everyone safe as the Ebola scare spreads.
A spokesperson for the hospital said this training was scheduled before panicked Poplarville parents began asking questions about whether a school worker who's in Africa this week will be allowed back at work when he returns.
From head to toe, hospital staff members suited up in protective gear sealed with duct tape to see and feel what it would be like if they had to treat a patient with Ebola.
"The chances of this happening are very slim," Pearl River County Hospital Emergency Department Director Dr. Jim Aiken said, "but we know from our lessons in treating other people with chemical diseases and Tuberculosis that the first thing for us to do in the very beginning is to identify a patient that could possibly contaminate other people."
Since Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, class members were reminded it is especially important to cover the eyes, nose and mouth. Some suited up in full gear, while others only wore a face mask and gown. Those with minimal coverage are able to talk to the patient.
To stress how vital it is to cover up, the instructor gave students a fake cardboard patient with Karo Syrup on it which representing bodily secretions. At the end of the class, the black light showed several bodily secretions on the first responders' protective gear.
"We have had to increase our amount of masks and gloves and gowns," Pearl River County Hospital CEO Steve Vaughan said, "and we have also asked everyone to enter and exit through one door, so we can question our visitors and all patients coming in."
"We want people to be concerned; we don't want people to be afraid," Dr. Aiken said. "There is only very, very few circumstances where somebody can catch ebola."
If someone in Pearl River County does contract the virus, the hospital staff and first responders believe they are prepared.
"We have dealt with this for years and years and years, it's just a different type of chemical or biological agent than anything we have ever dealt with post 9/11," Poplarville Fire Department Captain Justin Miller said. "We are just ramping up our knowledge and refreshing everything that our guys are already prepared for."
As for those in the community, Dr. Aiken said, "People need to be concerned, but not afraid. Let me add, this is also time to think about what you can do to stay healthy. What you can do is get a flu shot, get children vaccinated, and have one less reason to have a disease that could have these symptoms and create further concern."