A woman who feared she had Ebola — saying she recently visited Texas and wasn't feeling well — prompted the Rochester Fire Department to rapidly deploy its pandemic response team, whose members quickly determined that her concerns were unfounded, authorities said Thursday.
In laying out a detailed account of the department's response to a 911 call Wednesday, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Belau said "this is not an unexpected occurrence" and there "will no doubt be other Ebola illness scares" in his city.
"The response to reports of Ebola-like illness will all get the same coordinated biohazard team approach to maximize the odds of keeping anyone else from getting sick if a first case of the disease ever appears in Rochester," Belau continued.
He said that government agencies and health professionals in the city continue "updating information and plans almost daily. Plans are in place and responders are ready."
According to Belau:
Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, a caller to 911 said the 36-year-old woman was not feeling well and worried she might have Ebola.
Responding fire crew members donned protective respiratory masks and spoke with the woman, who was on a pedestrian bridge near Elton Hills Drive and West River Parkway.
The responders "quickly ascertained … that she did not meet any of the criteria to consider her an Ebola patient," learning that she left Texas on Sept. 18, two days before Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in Dallas from West Africa infected by the Ebola virus, from which he died.
Firefighters also checked the woman for a fever and determined she had none. She was seen at the Mayo Clinic's St. Marys Hospital and released.
On Wednesday morning, leaders at Mayo reviewed its Ebola response procedures to ensure that all doctors and nurses in the isolation unit have the proper training to protect themselves from contracting the disease. The review followed confirmation that two nurses at the Texas hospital where Duncan was treated have Ebola.
Rochester's Fire Department updated its pandemic disease response plan in August to address Ebola, specifically by adding safeguards "that are two steps above the current recommendations" for other contagious disease threats, Belau said.