JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The death of the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. has caused Region 8 emergency call centers to make some changes.
"This prompted a lot of agencies to go ahead and be proactive," E911 Director Jeff Presley said. "We are now meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for call information for the Ebola virus."
As of Thursday, if people call Jonesboro E911 with a medical issue, dispatchers will ask them a new series of questions about Ebola. These questions include: have you recently traveled to a country where an Ebola outbreak is occurring, do you have symptoms of Ebola such as fever, vomiting, muscle weakness?
If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, dispatchers will immediately notify first responders in an effort to stop the spread of the Ebola virus.
For example, Jonesboro E911 received more than 100 calls regarding seizures since Jan. 1. Since seizures are one of the symptoms of Ebola, these people would be asked the new questions.
"If we get a response that sends up a red flag, we'll alert the personnel out in the field right away," Presley said. "If one patient is picked up by EMTs that weren't alerted or prepared with personal protective devices, this could be spread throughout a community. So it's better to take those precautions and be safe."
Presley wants to stress there is no current threat of the virus in this area but it is a concern.
"This is a proactive approach," Presley said. "Several call centers around the nation have adopted this new protocol."
Much of the nation is on alert, especially after Thomas Eric Duncan died in a Dallas hospital Wednesday. Duncan was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.
The same hospital is still monitoring a sheriff's deputy who went inside Duncan's apartment, even though he tested negative for Ebola Thursday.
Five airports across the U.S. will start screening passengers arriving from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. A union group is also training workers at high-risk airports to clean and sanitize any place in an airport with possible Ebola exposure.
Presley said airports and 911 centers go hand in hand when it comes to public safety.
"We don't want to wait until something happens to start the protocol," Presley said. "This is just an advanced notice to our dispatchers that this could come to our area so let's be prepared."
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