Schneck Medical Center in Seymour is now prepared and certified to evaluate and care for Ebola patients.

The local hospital is one of only six facilities in the state to be designated an Ebola Assessment Hospital by the Indiana State Department of Health.

The designation is given to medical facilities with specially trained staff, proper equipment and resources available to provide up to 96 hours of care to anyone suspected of having the rare disease. Schneck also may receive Ebola patients from other area hospitals that are not fully prepared to care for them, according to a news release from the hospital.

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After the initial evaluation and assessment, a patient diagnosed with Ebola would then be moved to a different facility for treatment. As of last February, there were 55 hospitals in the United States with Ebola treatment centers, none of which are in Indiana.

Eight Schneck employees have attended Ebola preparedness training at the National Ebola Training and Education Center, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. That training was led by staff from Emory University, Nebraska Medicine/UNMC and Bellevue Hospital, all of which have successfully treated Ebola patients in the past.

“We have taken several measures and will continue to take additional actions to prepare for addressing the needs of a person who is suspected of having Ebola or other infectious disease,” said Schneck President and CEO Warren Forgey.

Ebola is a rare but deadly virus that is spread through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person who is exhibiting symptoms. It has not been identified as being transmittable through the air by coughing or sneezing.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. As the illness progresses, symptoms worsen to include vomiting, diarrhea and a rash, and, in late stages, internal and external bleeding. About 70 percent of the cases are fatal.

Although the virus has been replaced in national headlines by Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and affects pregnant women and their unborn babies, Ebola isn’t gone and remains a health concern, especially in Africa, where it has killed thousands.

An outbreak of Ebola in 2014-15 that reached the United States resulted in two fatalities, put all hospitals and communities on alert and forced the creation and implementation of local response plans. Neither person who died contracted the virus in the United States, and the outbreak, which originated in Africa, was contained.

Ebola vaccines now are being developed as a result of the outbreak.

Patients suspected of having Ebola have specialized needs and can impact other health care services within the hospital. Schneck’s layout allows for a suspected Ebola case to be kept isolated from other patients, therefore reducing the risk of contamination and spread of the virus.

“Schneck joins an elite list of hospitals that can provide this level of care while minimizing risk to health care workers and the community,” Forgey said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.