Most ICUs have isolation rooms that are used for patients suspected to have tuberculosis, SARS, Middle East respiratory syndrome or another infectious disease. Schaffner said that not much would be different for an Ebola patient, though more stringent precautions might be taken to ensure that health care workers are following all protocols.
- Our medical staff is ready.
"We have been training for this," Ribner said of preparations for the two American Ebola patients. These doctors know how to handle Ebola and will use an abundance of caution when working with an infected person.
Medical workers across the country have also been told to watch out for Ebola symptoms and question patients who have recently traveled to West Africa. They are trained to recognize Ebola cases and can quarantine them early, keeping others from coming into contact with an infected person's bodily fluids while the disease runs its course.
- Airports are on alert.
At African airports in the Ebola-affected region, passengers are being closely screened. Health experts are watching for people with high fevers. Those who have a temperature are removed and monitored while doctors test their blood for Ebola.
When passengers arrive at the airport, they are required to wash their hands in a chlorinated solution. Customs agents and passport inspectors are also wearing surgical gloves when interacting with passengers.
"There is always the possibility that someone with an infectious disease can enter the United States," CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said Monday. "The public health concern is whether it would spread and, if so, how quickly.'"
At U.S. airports, trained federal agents also watch for sick passengers. Border patrol is asking about potential exposure. If someone is sick, agents can remove them and keep them in the special isolation units kept at many U.S. airports until the CDC arrives to ask further questions.
Overall, health experts say, the threat to Americans remains relatively small. In the past decade, five people have entered the U.S. known to have a viral hemorrhagic fever, including a case in March of a Minnesota man diagnosed with Lassa fever after traveling to West Africa. No one else contracted the disease.