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With Flu Season On The Way, Minn. Preparing For Ebola, Too

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A nurse is now a patient after becoming the first person to catch the Ebola virus in the United States.

Health investigators say the woman had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who later died from the disease, at a hospital in Dallas. She tested positive for Ebola on Sunday.

Now, President Barack Obama is calling for an investigation into how it happened.

The Center for Disease Control says the nurse was wearing full protective gear, but might have been infected while taking off her gown, gloves and face mask.

Here in the Twin Cities, hospitals have precautions in place in case the Ebola virus spreads to Minnesota.

"A lot of times when we have contact with patients, they do have questions and want to become educated about it," Dr. Christopher Obetz said.

Obetz works in the emergency department at Abbott Northwestern WestHealth in Plymouth. He says it's already a busy time at the hospital heading into flu season. Whenever a patient is worried their flu-like symptoms are something more, doctors are prepared.

"They're carefully screened for foreign travel symptoms of Ebola and if they have any warning signs we take immediate precautions," he said.

Many of the warning signs mimic the flu like fever and vomiting, but the distinguishing characteristic of Ebola is unusual bleeding. Doctors have Ebola kits and patients are quarantined if the virus is at all suspected.

While doctors want patients to be informed, they also think there's no reason to panic.

"It's not spread through air-born secretions like many other illnesses, like influenza, so you have to be infected from a sick patient for this to spread," Obetz said.

On Sunday, Gov. Mark Dayton said he has great confidence in the skill and training of our health care workers, but the key to fighting Ebola is to stop if from getting here. He said he plans to send a letter to the Centers for Disease Control Monday, asking for our airport to join the list of those with extra screenings for the virus.

Dayton said that makes sense because we have the largest Liberian population in the country. The man who brought Ebola to the United States came from Liberia.


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