HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State health officials told lawmakers on the state Senate Health Committee that there is a low probability Hawaii will get a patient with the Ebola virus, but it's likely there will be suspect cases that will be ruled out.
"The Ebola virus is waking us up to the fact that you can't cut corners," state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said.
The informational briefing was the first of several to reassure the public on the state's preparations to handle an Ebola case.
"I think our recent suspect case that didn't turn out to be Ebola was handled appropriately, which shows that we know what to do," Health Director Dr. Linda Rosen said..
She said her department has identified hospitals on Oahu with higher levels of intensive care that would receive an Ebola patient. One of them is the Queen's Medical Center. The Healthcare Association of Hawaii will give health workers additional training, supply protective equipment, and provide transport for Ebola patients.
"That's within a bio-containment chamber. We can actually seal somebody up very safely, very comfortably," Toby Clairmont said. "We can move them without any chance of contamination to aircraft, to airports, and the rest."
He said state health providers have had an eye on Ebola since the outbreak began in West Africa. But Park cautioned that Hawaii doctors can't just be thinking Ebola first.
"The tragedy is if we overlook a treatable disease, a more common disease," she said.
Rosen said more intense preparation is needed but Hawaii is on top of Ebola readiness.
"For the public, they need to understand that the health care system is protecting them from exposure. They should be able to just go about their daily business," she said.
She said some healthcare workers may be selected for special Ebola training, but the decision on whether they can opt out of caring for an Ebola patient will be left up to hospitals.
Individuals who feel ill and think they might have been exposed to an infectious disease can call the Department of Health's Disease Responding Line at 586-4586.
Sen. Josh Green said the Senate Health Committee will hold another briefing next Wednesday.