New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport began screening passengers traveling to the airport from West Africa for possible cases of Ebola on Oct. 11.
Since late March, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been hit the hardest by the epidemic with only a few cases in the United States and parts of Europe. However, a Liberian citizen died in Dallas after contracting the virus. A nurse assigned to his case was also diagnosed with the virus and is in stable condition.
At NYU, the two main patient treatment centers, the Student Health Center and the Langone Medical Center, have developed procedures and are retraining staff to deal with the possibility of an infected patient.
Michael Phillips, hospital epidemiologist at Langone, said triage nurses have been told to ask key questions about a patient’s risk of Ebola infection.
“They know that chest pain can be a problem with the heart,” Phillips said. “The same thing applies to somebody that comes in and says ‘I have a fever.’ Could this patient have come from somewhere we need to worry about?”
Phillips said even patients whose history could not be determined would be isolated from others if Ebola is suspected. He also said staff at Langone have received additional training to prepare them for a potential outbreak.
In the case of the Student Health Center, a student with symptoms consistent with Ebola would be placed in isolation and evaluated. If deemed to be at the risk of having contracted the disease, he or she would be transferred to the hospital for further observation, associate vice president for student health Carlo Ciotoli said in an email.
Ciotoli said Ebola poses little risk to the NYU community.
“The Student Health Center has been in close contact with our colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and NYU Langone Medical Center to ensure that protocols are in place for the identification, isolation and transfer of any suspected cases,” Ciotoli said.
The Student Health Center has also taken steps to reach out to the NYU student community about the virus, contacting students who have permanent addresses in affected countries to ask them to self-monitor for the full 21 days it could take symptoms to manifest and approach the Student Health Center if any do. The staff at the health center has been instructed to ask patients with symptoms about their travel histories.
CAS junior Kathleen Wong, who participated in the NYU Accra program over the summer, said she had not been contacted by the health center or any other NYU representative regarding her proximity to the epicenter of the outbreak.
“Among the students we would talk about it, but the administration never mentioned it to us,” Wong said. “I definitely think that they could be doing more, because I think students definitely don’t know. It would have been nice to receive guidance for someone that was there.”
Despite this, Wong was not worried about her safety.
“I never felt at risk, I knew it was a couple countries away, but I never felt in any danger,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 15, print edition. Email Felipe De La Hoz at [email protected]