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High Point Regional leaders: Ebola ‘a legitimate scare’ they’re ready for

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- High Point Regional Hospital leaders did not wait for the first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States to prepare for a potential patient.

“We feel like we're on higher alert because of the Furniture Market, because so many different people from all over the world come here for that week,” said Patricia Triplett, the chief of infectious diseases at High Point Regional.

Furniture Market leaders estimate that about 10 percent of attendees are international or about 7,000 visitors.

The market begins Oct. 18 but the hospital has been at work since mid-August. The hospital has been coordinating between different departments, developing mock situations for some staff members and sending some personnel to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, where three patients have been treated after contracting the disease in West Africa this summer.

“It’s a legitimate scare and so you have to take the proper precautions,” said Angelina Drews, a nurse who helped coordinate the response plan for High Point.

Much of the medical response is dictated by guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moses Cone Hospital sent FOX8 News a diagram of the questions that they pose to patients to determine if a sick patient has Ebola.

“Our efforts are focused on quickly identifying potential cases and beginning care and isolation until [a diagnosis] is confirmed,” said Doug Allred, a spokesman for Cone Health.

The questions include whether the patient has traveled to an outbreak area within the last three weeks or been exposed to fluids like vomit or blood from a person in a high-risk area. So far those high-risk areas identified by the World Health Organization are all outside of the U.S. in countries like Guinea, Sierra Leon, Liberia and Nigeria.

Infectious disease professionals want the public to remember that spreading Ebola is difficult and transmitting the disease is not nearly as easy as catching the flu.

“I can see people being so upset and afraid and, now that we have a patient who is here and identified in Dallas, this is what we were all worried about,” said Triplett.

But Drews hopes by alerting the public to the plans put in place at High Point Regional it should help people feel better about potentially treating an Ebola patient in the Piedmont.

“It's the care factor and the safety factor that will protect us,” said Drews.