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Oct. 23, 2014 Volume 36, No. 9

If Ebola strikes, greater Columbia is prepared, officials say

MU Health Care routinely treats Missouri patients with infectious diseases

The likelihood that Ebola, the virus that has taken thousands of lives in West Africa and one in America, will arrive in mid-Missouri is very low, a point repeated multiple times during a Tuesday news conference at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public and Human Services in Columbia.

Nevertheless, area officials in education, public safety and health services presented a united front with a clear message: If Ebola arrives, Columbia is ready and able to handle it.

MU Health Care has a “robust and experienced infection control department,” said Chief Medical Officer Stevan Whitt. Missouri patients with infectious diseases are routinely treated at University Hospital, said Whitt, one of seven news conference panelists that included representatives from Columbia Public Schools, MU Police Department and Columbia Fire Department.

“We take care of life-threatening infections all the time,” Whitt said.

The news conference was organized by the Boone County Department of Public Health.

Despite the low likelihood of an Ebola case in Columbia, a multidisciplinary team headed by MU Health Care’s infection control department is combing through its procedures to be sure they align with the new infectious-disease recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Whitt said.

Eric Evans, MU ‘s emergency management coordinator, said in an interview that no students are in or planning trips to the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where the Ebola outbreak began. Also, State Department travel restrictions are being watched closely, he said.