Potential dangers minimised while specialists assess threat
Dr Gillian Armstrong, specialist registrar in Public Health with the Public Health Agency explains the course of action taken from when a case of Ebola is suspected:
Cases can come through in a variety of ways, but more often through the emergency department via a GP.
If there is any potential risk of Ebola the patient is isolated straight away in a side room and the staff would be wearing appropriate personal protection.
The equipment they wear depends on the degree of risk of having Ebola. Those considered at low or no risk would be standard infection control precaution, which is aprons and gloves. If there is a greater risk then they wear full protective equipment. They would be assessed by one of the emergency doctors and would check in terms of have they been to one of the countries affected? The local doctor would speak to the infection consultants. Together they would perform a joint risk assessment.
If we think it is high possibility they have Ebola they will continue to be isolated and transferred up to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
A consultant will seek advice from experts in England. They will come in on the risk assessment and give their opinion. At that point, if they think it is possible they will be transferred to the Royal infectious disease unit by a specialised ambulance with a specialist crew with the full personal protective equipment. Once they arrive there is a special room in the ward where they would be isolated.
Test results are usually back in 48 hours. If they are positive the case would then be transferred to the Royal Free in London.