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Allegheny Co. Health Officials Make Preparations For Possible Ebola Cases

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The message was clear, there have been no local cases of Ebola, but those on the front lines are ready if needed.

As we've watched the Ebola story unfold from West Africa, to hospitals in this country, to Hazmat suits and quarantines, locally those on the medical front lines have been working.

"Preparing for a potential case even though we do believe the risk remains very low for people here in the county, said Dr. Karen Hacker, of the Allegheny County Health Department.

Those preparations include a change in how 911 calls from sick patients are handled.

The additional screening went into effect at 6:30 this morning," said Chief Alvin Henderson, of Allegheny County Emergency Services. "Right now, it's been business as usual for us in the Allegheny County 911 Center."

The additional screening means they are asking anyone who calls with a fever a series of questions to determine if there's any possible Ebola connection.

It's the same kind of questioning the Allegheny County Health Department has asked all local medical providers to ask when someone presents with a fever.

"We have gotten calls from hospitals about potential case and they call us and we go through the process of screening and we've ruled out every single one of them," said Dr. Hacker.

Because of concerns about sick airline passengers, Pittsburgh International has put a new protocol in place.

"We have the personnel and the equipment and the procedures and protocol to address them appropriately," said Jim Gill, of the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Dr. Hacker points out there have been no cases in our area, and says Ebola fears need to be kept in perspective.

"Social media, Twitter they're alive, and I think it's very easy to get sucked in to watching this over and over again, which does not help the situation and raises people's anxiety," she said.

Dr. Hacker says the biggest concern locally is not about Ebola, but instead that people will not get their flu shots because of the Ebola fears. In the long run, the flu is a much bigger threat to the local population than Ebola.

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