October 23, 2014

Vanderbilt continues Ebola virus preparations

Ebola virus under microscope.

As the Ebola virus strengthens in West Africa and authorities work to prevent the virus from spreading in the United States, Vanderbilt University Medical Center continues its preparations to: safely treat patients with Ebola; educate the general public through the Tennessee Poison Center hotline; and ensure that faculty and staff who have recently traveled to an affected area are appropriately screened for their return to campus.

An Oct. 20 town hall meeting about the Ebola virus conducted by Tom Talbot, M.D., MPH, chief hospital epidemiologist at VUMC, is now available for viewing online. The password-protected video can be seen by visiting the Medical Center’s Department of Infection Prevention website at www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/infectioncontrol.

In addition, Vanderbilt’s Poison Center is fielding calls about the Ebola virus. In partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health, the Tennessee Poison Center (TPC) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center is answering calls from Tennessee residents regarding the Ebola virus.

“Our hope is that any resident who has reasonable concern that they or a family member may have been exposed to the Ebola virus will call the hotline,” said Donna Seger, M.D., professor of Clinical Medicine and director of the TPC. “Their question can be answered and advice given regarding next steps, should any be necessary.”

The Ebola virus Information Hotline can be reached at (877) 857-2945. All calls are free of charge, and will be answered between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. There are plans to expand the hours of the Information Hotline in the near future. The TPC is certified as the statewide poison control center by the Tennessee Department of Health and is certified by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

And in addition to protocols in place to screen, identify and appropriately isolate patients who have traveled to West Africa and who meet clinical criteria for Ebola exposure, faculty and staff who have traveled to an affected area will also be screened.

“We need to ensure that faculty and staff who have recently traveled to an affected area are screened for their safety to return to campus,” said Melanie Swift, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic (OHC) and assistant professor of Medicine.

Faculty and staff who have traveled to any Ebola-affected area (currently Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea) should monitor their temperature and symptoms for 21 days after leaving the area and should call the OHC at (615) 936-0955 prior to their return to work, Swift said.

Via telephone interview, an OHC clinician will determine the risk of exposure, screen for any symptoms, and advise the employee of any additional monitoring or precautions needed. The OHC will also advise the employee and supervisor regarding when the employee may safely return to work.

As always, international business travelers should schedule a pre-travel evaluation with the Occupational Health Clinic four weeks prior to their departure. At that visit, OHC provides timely disease outbreak information, education on special precautions or monitoring, and all necessary vaccinations and prescriptions.