Three Dallas, TX Local 58 members – two paramedics and one paramedic intern – who transported the now-deceased patient with Ebola to the hospital – have been taken off duty with pay and are under continuous medical observation at their homes.
President of Dallas Local 58 Doug Dickerson says he has the highest level of confidence that the three paramedics were not exposed to the deadly disease, and is extremely proud of the way they performed their jobs.
“Our guys did a fantastic job,” he says. “They took all of the necessary precautions and delivered the patient to the hospital where he received care.”
The paramedics have been under medical observation since September 28 when they transported the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, to a Dallas hospital. According to Dickerson, the three paramedics, who names are not being released to the public, will remain off duty and under observation until at least October 19, marking three weeks after first coming into contact with the infected patient.
The three are all taking their temperatures and reporting results to medical officials twice daily. A rise in temperature is the first symptom of Ebola.
Duncan, who was transported and admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 28 with common Ebola symptoms, died October 8, two weeks after returning from a trip to Liberia in West Africa where the disease has killed more than 3,400 people.
According to Dickerson, the three paramedics responded to a call to Duncan’s home and were met outside by family members who indicated that the patient may have Ebola. The paramedics conducted their response by the book, donning protective masks and gloves before entering the building. They noted that Duncan had a fever and other symptoms, but was not releasing any bodily fluids. They ran an IV for Duncan and then transported him.
“Each of the paramedics has been interviewed a number of times, and they all say that they at no time came into contact with any bodily fluids,” says Dickerson.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the only way to be exposed to Ebola is to be in contact with bodily fluids, including blood, vomit and diarrhea.
The paramedics alerted hospital officials of the patient’s symptoms and possible exposure to Ebola. When they completed the run, they followed protocol for decontaminating the ambulance.
As an added precaution against Ebola, Dallas Fire Department dispatchers answering medical calls have been instructed to ask if patients are running a fever. If the answer is “yes” responders are donning PPEs for the run. In addition, if a fever is present, paramedics are relaying that information to the hospital so that medical personnel can prepare the facility for the arrival of a patient with possible Ebola exposure.
“It may be overkill right now, but we would rather err on the side of caution, and other than that we are in wait-and-see-mode as the three paramedics complete the 21-day observation period,” says Dickerson.
While he has full praise for the paramedics, Dickerson notes two important lessons learned.
First, if paramedics believe that they have possibly been exposed to Ebola or other infectious disease, they must tell fire department officials, as well as the hospital.
The second lesson is to stress that fire fighters and paramedics must continue to be vigilant and take universal precautions on all patients.
“This latest issue with Ebola should remind all of us that we must stay alert,” says Dickerson. “We cannot relax on the procedures. Wear your PPE. You cannot have on too much but you can have on too little.”
For more on fire fighter and EMS personnel response to Ebola, click here.