Rice working with Texas Medical Center on preparedness for Ebola

The Texas Medical Center has been working with Houston and Harris County hospitals and health departments to plan how they would handle a patient with Ebola. Rice, which is a member of the medical center, has participated in those meetings, and the university’s Crisis Management Team has also been monitoring communications about Ebola from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of State.

Ebola“We are participating in the Texas Medical Center’s planning and preparedness efforts in case Houston gets a patient with Ebola,” said Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby, chair of Rice’s Crisis Management Team, in a letter to the Rice community Oct. 13. He noted that Ebola continues to make front-page news, especially in light of the infected nurse in Dallas who helped treat the first patient (now deceased) diagnosed with the disease in the U.S.

Local hospitals have protocols in place for screening and isolating patients who have clinical symptoms of the disease, such as a fever of 101.5 degrees or higher, in combination with a risk factor, such as residence in or travel in the past 21 days to an area in West Africa where transmission of the disease is or has been active (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and a small area of Nigeria). The Houston and Harris County health departments already have plans for how to best keep patients with Ebola isolated at home and to trace their contact with others quickly to stop the spread of the disease.

Dr. Mark Jenkins, director of Rice’s Student Health Services, said his staff is informed about the CDC guidelines for screening and treating patients with Ebola. He noted that Rice is fortunate to have world-class health care institutions across the street from the university in the event that a member of the community becomes ill.

“We are not aware of any Rice students, faculty or staff who have traveled to the Ebola-impacted countries in West Africa recently for research or study,” Kirby said. “If you are planning to go to one of these countries on university business or for Rice-related studies, you need to register your travel with International SOS, which can send updates about medical and security concerns while you are in and out of the country and offer suggestions on actions you should take.”

Questions about International SOS should be directed to Renee Block, Rice’s director of risk management, at 713-348-4751 or rab@rice.edu.

The CDC considers the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States to be very low and is taking precautions to prevent that from happening. For more info, visit the CDC website, www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.