Boston officials are stepping up efforts to spot Ebola cases after the Hub area was hit by its first scare yesterday, when a man who recently visited Liberia was quarantined after walking into a Braintree medical clinic complaining of head and muscle aches.
Boston hospital officials downplayed the danger last night, saying the likelihood the Braintree patient had Ebola was “extremely low.” Yesterday’s scare came amid a report that a Dallas nurse who wore a protective suit while treating the Ebola patient who died last week also contracted the deadly disease — in what a local ER chief called “a game-changer” because it’s the first time someone has caught Ebola in the U.S.
“It gives us a heightened level of concern that even when we think that when we’re compliant with infection control precautions, infection can happen,” said Dr. Michael VanRooyen, vice chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The scary part is that they don’t know where the breach was.”
Boston police Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross told the Herald last night he will be convening Ebola preparedness meetings with the heads of police, emergency management, EMS and fire, to get first responders on the same page about Ebola safety protocols.
“We’re going to be the first ones responding to these situations, so whoever gets there first should know the symptoms of Ebola and what to do next,” Gross said. “We don’t want anything like Dallas to happen here in Boston, where someone is turned away or sent home.”
Earlier in the day, Mayor Martin J. Walsh expressed confidence in local preparedness, but said a local Ebola case “seems like it potentially is inevitable.” And City Councilor Stephen J. Murphy, the council’s public safety chairman, called for tighter screenings at Logan International Airport.
“They should screen them better upon entry,” Murphy said. “I think that’s better safe than sorry.”
Local health officials said a man arrived at Harvard Vanguard’s Braintree office about 1:30 p.m., prompting the building to be temporarily shut down and workers and other patients to be held on site until the patient was taken in a hazmat suit to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.