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The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Photo: Shannon Jensen

Penn is taking steps to prevent the spread of Ebola to the University and to mitigate harm if Ebola arrives in Philadelphia.

Student Health Services and the University of Pennsylvania Health System are working with the Center for Disease Control and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to monitor the Ebola situation, according to an email sent to undergraduates this afternoon.

ABC6 News reported on Friday that the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania will be designated as a treatment center for health care workers infected with the disease and is in the process of building an air-tight isolation unit. The nearby Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will be designated as a regional hospital for pediatric patients.

An Ebola task force that meets daily is being led by Neil Fishman, associate chief medical officer at Penn Medicine, and Patrick Brennan, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Penn Medicine, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.

Rush said that one of task force’s major initiatives is to ensure that first responders to potential Ebola patients are protected from contracting the disease themselves.

"There are protocols already for infectious diseases, but now we're centralizing on this particular outbreak, preparing all responders on how to identify and mitigate risk," Rush said.

Fishman  told the New York Times that masks, gowns and double layers of gloves act as sufficient protection for nurses and doctors who come in contact with patients.

Preparations for a potential Ebola outbreak began before the fall semester, according to the email sent to Penn undergraduates. Penn Global and representatives from Penn's 12 schools began identifying Penn students, faculty and staff who had recently traveled to affected regions in West Africa, as well those who planned on visiting. The University is still monitoring travel plans and recommending people follow the CDC's alert and defer unnecessary travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in its history, according to the CDC. On Sept. 30, the CDC confirmed the first travel-associated case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States. The patient died on Oct. 8.

Updated information on Penn's Ebola preparations can be found on a special University webpage.

The full text of the email is below.


A message to the Penn Community regarding Ebola

From

Amy Gutmann, President

Vincent Price, Provost

Craig Carnaroli, Executive Vice President

Larry Jameson, Executive Vice President of UPHS and Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine

We write to inform you about preparations at Penn in the event that members of the Penn community or patients within our health system were to contract Ebola. As we know you will understand, even if the probability of an Ebola outbreak in this country remains remote, it is critically important that we take proactive measures to be fully prepared. This is by far the best way of our doing our part to minimize fear and avoid panic. We have already undertaken steps and are prepared to do everything needed moving forward. The safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff is always our primary concern.

Student Health Services (SHS) has in place strong protocols to manage any cases, should they present, working closely with the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), and with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and CDC as needed. SHS epidemiological monitoring is continuous, and we have provided detailed, up-to-date information and resources, along with links to FAQs and more information about the virus on the Student Health Services website.

Prior to the start of the semester, Penn Global and representatives of Penn’s 12 Schools worked collaboratively to identify, support, and educate members of the Penn community who had recently travelled or lived in Africa, particularly in areas directly affected by the virus. We also reached out to all known current travelers or those with known or intended future travel plans in West Africa. Penn recommended that all students, faculty, and staff follow the CDC’s Travel Alert, which urges US citizens to defer unnecessary travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Penn Global is continuing to monitor the travel activities of our students, faculty and staff and we have not had anyone traveling from the affected areas in the past 21 days.

We are fortunate at Penn to have one of the world’s most highly regarded medical health systems. In addition to our already rigorous infection control and isolation precautions, we have taken additional steps to assure that Penn Medicine is well prepared to address the Ebola challenge. We are in regular contact with the Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health and we are part of a citywide preparedness task force led by the Health Commissioner. These groups are together addressing all that should be done for ill patients, how to handle disease control/contact identification and other essential matters such as transportation and waste disposal. In addition, the White House has designated Penn Medicine as having special expertise in this kind of global medical challenge.

The situation is very dynamic and we are closely coordinating among University and Health System leadership to ensure Penn is prepared to confront this challenge. You can find additional information at the following web site, which will be updated whenever new information is available: http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/ebola/

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