Watch CBS News

Fake Ebola Patients Being Sent To NYC Emergency Rooms To Test Readiness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- On the same day that Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan died, New York City hospitals were testing their readiness in the battle against the virus.

As WCBS 880's Paul Murnane reported, fake Ebola patients are being sent to local emergency rooms.

WEB EXTRA: More Information About Ebola From CDC

The pretend patients complain of fever, headaches and abdominal pain -- Ebola syptoms that should trigger the question "have you traveled to West Africa?"

The testing has been going on for two to three weeks, the city's Health and Hospitals Corp. said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told WCBS 880 he believes a large Ebola outbreak here is "extraordinarily unlikely."

New York City Deploys Fake Patients To Test Hospitals On Ebola

"It's just not really going to happen, an outbreak in the United States, because the fact that we have a health care system that is able to do the kinds of isolations and contact tracing, which would in fact prevent the evolution of an outbreak," Fauci said.

Reaction to the tests has been positive. Ross Wilson, HHC's chief medical officer, told The Wall Street Journal, "We're getting it right with pretty much every step."

CBS 2's Don Champion, 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera and WCBS 880's Paul Murnane were among the reporters who on Wednesday toured a special room at Bellevue Hospital Center's emergency room set aside for possible Ebola patients.

Bellevue would be the default hospital for any passenger at John F. Kennedy International Airport who shows symptoms of Ebola.

Bellevue Medical Director Dr. Nate Link spoke while a staffer covered head to toe in protective gear stood nearby.

Bellevue Hospital Ready To Treat Ebola

"Where an Ebola patient becomes sick to the point where they're having a lot of fluids -- blood or diarrhea -- then the staff would wear this," he explained.

Health officials brought the media into the room to show how ready New York City is to treat the deadly virus.

"We are prepared," Wilson said at the event. "We have both the personnel, the equipment and the expertise to manage."

The isolation unit includes its own lab to limit the travel of specimens through the facility. All waste would receive intense, sterilizing heat before disposal.

Bellevue can house just a few patients in Ebola isolation, though Wilson said capacity can be expanded.

WEB EXTRA: U.S. Fact Sheet On Ebola

The precautions taken inside the hospital with potential Ebola patients are all listed on a detailed checklist sent out by the CDC. Guidelines have also been handed out to first responders.

In the field, paramedics and EMTs have to wear gear that will protect them from fluids. They're also urged to limit the use of needles and similar equipment while transporting a patient.

"We never know what we're walking into on an emergency, especially when someone invites us into their home who exhibits these symptoms," said EMT Crystal Wilfong.

Bellevue Hospital Ready To Treat Ebola

Meanwhile in Westchester County on Wednesday, County Executive Rob Astorino said a patient being treated in a hospital there was concerned he might have contracted Ebola through contact with a traveler coming from West Africa, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

The man, a Westchester resident, was placed in isolation. But Astorino told reporters "The risk is extraordinarily low, and I believe they're not even going to test for Ebola in this case."\

"The person did go in last night when we were notified, and the hospital took the right precaution," Astorino said. "The information that they had that it was not to the level of Ebola, but they are still in an observation stage.

"The hospital and staff did exactly what they were supposed to do and that's how it works, and that's how it'll improve, too, if and when there are more cases or a definitive case," the county executive and gubernatorial candidate added.

Fake Ebola Patients Being Sent To NYC Emergency Rooms To Test Readiness

Astorino said 11 patients have raised concerns in Westchester, but none have been diagnosed with the disease.

Back in Texas, a second patient who may have been exposed to Ebola has been transported to a hospital by ambulance after walking into an urgent care clinic in Dallas with flu-like symptoms, CBS 2 reported.

The patient told doctors he had recently traveled from West Africa. He is currently undergoing testing.

New Layer Of Ebola Screening Implemented At Some Airports

A new layer of screening is being implemented at five U.S. airports that receive more than 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the CDC said Wednesday. The airports are John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty, Dulles outside Washington, O'Hare in Chicago and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.

Customs and Border Protection agents at the five airports will check passports, take travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to a special screening area, observe them for signs of illness and ask them a series of questions about their health and possible exposure to Ebola.

If any red flags are raised, they would then be evaluated at a CDC quarantine station.

You May Also Be Interested In These Stories

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.