Health & Medicine

2 suspected Ebola patients in Sacramento-area test negative for virus

Members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare workers will rally near Kaiser Permanente’s south Sacramento hospital. The union says it has more than 2,000 members who work at this facility.
Members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare workers will rally near Kaiser Permanente’s south Sacramento hospital. The union says it has more than 2,000 members who work at this facility. Sacramento Bee file

Two people being evaluated at Sacramento-area hospitals for the Ebola virus have both tested negative, public health officials said Friday.

The negative lab tests capped a week of health alerts that also included a possible outbreak of measles.

“It’s a great relief to all of us,” said Bonnie Castillo, associate director of the California Nurses Association, which represents nurses across the state.

One Ebola patient arrived Thursday at Mercy General Hospital in East Sacramento, but was quickly transferred to UC Davis Medical Center. At the time, Mercy officials said the patient had symptoms consistent with the deadly disease and had traveled to an Ebola-stricken country.

A second Ebola patient arrived Wednesday evening at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, south Sacramento, though hospital officials didn’t publicize the case until Friday morning. That individual is being discharged, according to a Kaiser spokeswoman.

The patients’ identities have not been released. Few details are being provided because of strict patient privacy laws.

The Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory was certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month to test for Ebola, eliminating the time it would take to ship specimens for testing at the CDC laboratory in Atlanta.

With the certification, turnaround time for results has been reduced from about 24 to 48 hours to eight hours, said Laura McCasland, a county health spokeswoman.

“The amount of time when there’s anxiety – that’s been decreased significantly,” she said.

Castillo applauded the response from hospital and public health officials this week, saying it appears the proper protocols have been followed.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration implemented a wide range of safety standards last year to protect nurses. Those include mandating hazardous-materials suits and creating emergency response protocols at all California hospitals, according to Castillo.

“You can never predict when a patient is going to walk through the doors,” Castillo said.

Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, south Sacramento, and UC Davis Medical Center are among the eight hospitals in California designated by state and federal officials to treat the virus.

An Ebola outbreak hit several West African countries last spring and has resulted in nearly 9,000 deaths.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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