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Patient Tests Negative For Ebola In Jefferson County

Updated at 6:40 p.m.

A Jefferson County woman who was showing symptoms of Ebola has initially tested negative for the virus at Mercy Hospital in Crystal City. As a precautionary measure, officials said she will remain in an isolation room for treatment and will be monitored according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The patient, a trained nurse, returned to the United States a few days ago from working in Liberia, officials said. Warren Robinson, Director of Emergency Management for Jefferson County, said she was assisting with management there and did not have direct contact with Ebola patients. Therefore, upon admission to Mercy Hospital Jefferson, she was considered a ‘low risk’ patient.

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
Credit CDC
The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.

Missouri State Public Laboratory in Jefferson City conducted the initialtesting of the blood sample. The lab became a designated Ebola testing lab last month. Governor Jay Nixon also released an additional $3.3 million to local public health agencies at that time.  

Robinson said the patient had been regularly monitored by public health authorities and CDC officials since her return, and had been a model patient. The CDC recommends that low-risk category patients be actively monitored for 21 days after their last potential exposure to Ebola, but there is no restriction on their travel, work or public conveyances if they do not exhibit symptoms.

The patient presented signs of a fever Wednesday morning, and was immediately admitted to Mercy Hospital Jefferson, Robinson said. 

“Just to be overly cautious, we went ahead and had this person admitted to the hospital in Jefferson County, being kept in an isolated facility that is separate from the hospital complex,” Robinson said.

The patient is being kept in a facility separate from the main hospital, spokesperson Bethany Pope wrote in an e-mail. A team of staff members who are trained to respond to Ebola are providing care and are following protocols established by the CDC, Pope said. The hospital is working with the Jefferson County Health Department to coordinate their response.

Because Ebola is transmitted through the bodily fluids of a patient who is exhibiting symptoms of Ebola, the CDC recommends a series of protocols for health workers to wear protective gear that covers the skin; sanitation procedures for the patient’s room; and the disposal of waste.

Mercy Hospital Jefferson is a 251-bed acute care facility in Crystal City. Formerly known as the Jefferson Regional Medical Center, the facility was purchased by the Mercy Health network in 2013. The hospital also has a separate, 25,000 square foot surgical center with 14 private patient suites, according to the hospital’s website.

The spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, Dave Dillon, said he believes Mercy Hospital Jefferson is well-prepared to handle the case.

“This is something we’ve been working months to train for,” Dillon said. “Individuals should be confident that we have the capacity to deal with this situation as it currently exists,” Dillon said.

According to the CDC, the Ebola virus has taken the lives of at least 5,165 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March of 2014. On November 12, the World Health Organization reported an additional 4 cases in Mali, which borders Guinea.

Earlier this week, 44-year-old Dr. Martin Salia, died after returned to the U.S. for treatment after contracting Ebola while working in Sierra Leone.

U.S. hospitals have treated 10 cases of Ebola, including two nurses in Dallas who cared for the country’s first patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. Duncan passed away on October 8. 

Check back later for updates.

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB

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Durrie Bouscaren
Durrie Bouscaren covers healthcare and medical research throughout the St. Louis metro area. She comes most recently from Iowa Public Radio’s newsroom in Des Moines, where she reported on floods, a propane shortage, and small-town defense contractors. Since catching the radio bug in college, Bouscaren has freelanced and interned at NPR member stations WRVO, WAER and KQED. Her work has aired on All Things Considered, KQED’s The California Report, and Harvest Public Media, a regional reporting collaborative.
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