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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Crisis Management Team implements ebola precautions with the Texas Medical Center

By Michelle Tran     10/21/14 12:02pm

Rice University’s Crisis Management Team has been monitoring communications regarding Ebola from the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of State. They sent an email to students, faculty and staff over midterm recess assuring the campus population of the precautions the university has implemented with the Texas Medical Center to protect against Ebola infection.

According to Dan Fu, director of Planning and Projects, Rice has been keeping track of the decisions of the TMC emergency committee involving the center’s constituent medical institutions, which has been actively planning preparedness measures in case an Ebola case reaches Houston.

“As part of their overall mission, the TMC has put together different committees that bring together the appropriate functions at each of the [TMC]’s institutions for meetings,” Fu said. “One of these [committees] is the Security and Preparedness Committee that helps coordinate emergency responses if there was a massive regional catastrophe or event that would manage to affect all of the institutions.”

The TMC’s Security and Preparedness Committee has established the same protocols that the CDC and the U.S. Department of State have set as guidelines.

“[The TMC] has an extensive hospital network throughout all of Southeast Texas,” Fu said. “Specifically for the city and the county, they have first responders, and if someone fits the criteria of having visited Liberia or other West African nations and presents with a high fever, they have established protocols to meet the patient outside of the emergency room and move them to quarantine.”

Because Rice is not a first responder or health care provider, Rice’s preparedness efforts are more limited than that of the TMC’s Security and Preparedness Committee and are more focused on gathering relevant epidemiological information, according to Fu.

“What [Rice] has done since the summer is to look for and identify any faculty, staff or students who may have traveled to West Africa, specifically the countries that were affected,” Fu said. “To this point in time, we haven’t established anyone that has been there, and, even if they had gone last summer, they are well past the 21 day incubation period.”

An important resource Rice has installed for preventative measures is the Student Health Center, from which students can be directed to medical institutions with proper isolation and quarantine facilities, according to Fu.

“If we have a student that presents with Ebola-like symptoms and if there is a suspicion or potential for it to be an Ebola case, [the Health Center] would immediately transfer them to hospitals where they are more capable of handling [patients],” Fu said.

Although Rice’s Crisis Management Team has been actively monitoring the Ebola situation since summer, they recently sent out the mass email as an update in the context of the recently-infected nurse in Dallas and the overall focus on Ebola in current news, according to Fu.

“We just sent the email as an update to let people know that we were following the news just like everyone else was and as a heads-up as we understand that a lot of people are concerned,” Fu said.

The international Ebola crisis has prompted the university go over basic infection preventative measures and meet with the custodial staff to go over what it means to have infection control, according to Fu. 

“We had a similar discussion with the custodial staff when the H1N1 flu was the big news and established appropriate protocols from a cleaning point standpoint,” Fu said. “It is a good time to review them because of [the impending] flu season.”

Because of the small number of isolated Ebola cases in the U.S., Fu said there will be a wait-and-see game to determine the most effective Ebola control response.

“Being aware of the situation and understanding and keeping up-to-date about whatever is happening will allow us to adjust our planning as we go forward,” Fu said.

McMurtry College junior Muhammad Harirah said he thinks the Rice Crisis Management Team’s collaboration is a smart decision.

“I feel it essentially represents the membership that started in 2003,” Harirah said.

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