Last Sunday afternoon, as a patient was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital amid some concerns about the Ebola virus, the University of Miami doctors and Jackson nurses, therapists and other staff were ready.
They offered the same world-class care and compassionate attention that they provide to every patient. In fact, most of the disruption on our campus Sunday came from protecting our patient’s privacy — an important and difficult task in the midst of so much public attention — rather than anything associated with safe treatment of a possible Ebola case.
With so many others whipped into frenzy, why was our team so calm and confident? Because they know the facts about Ebola, they know the capabilities of the University of Miami/Jackson team, and they know there’s no reason for anyone in South Florida to panic.
Jackson and the University of Miami are equipped for isolating much more infectious diseases, and even smaller hospitals can safely treat a suspected Ebola case with rigorous implementation of proper protocols.
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Ebola is less contagious than other infectious diseases we see every day — not just in our hospitals, but in our offices and schools and churches. It doesn’t spread through air or water or casual contact. There needs to be direct contact of blood or bodily fluids, or contamination through medical objects like needles. It can’t be contracted through skin unless there’s an open wound.
Ebola is also treatable, particularly if it’s caught early. The two American aid workers who contracted the virus in West Africa were cured by our colleagues at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and the recovery rate is improving even in countries affected by the outbreak.
As a proudly international community and gateway, it’s obviously important for us to take sensible precautions. But it’s equally important that we not overreact. We should not shun our visitors from Africa because of a disease that is highly concentrated in specific areas of three countries.
This is a serious global health threat that deserves our attention and commitment, but more people die of malaria every two days than have died in the entire Ebola outbreak. Our healthcare workers are taking every precaution to be mindful of potential carriers, and we know that’s more complicated than simply knowing a patient’s home continent. We will always welcome visitors from abroad to our great city.
Most important, we are ready to protect Miami-Dade County. For more than 95 years, we have relied upon Jackson for public health. For more than 60 years, Jackson has relied upon the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for some of the world’s best doctors — not just specialists in infectious diseases, but also trauma, pediatrics, maternity, neurosurgery and much more. We never stop and we never close.
The focus Sunday may have been on one patient, but most of our caregivers were still treating patients in the emergency departments, delivering babies, accepting new cases from other hospitals and doing all the other things that make Jackson and the University of Miami one of the most respected medical partnerships in the country.
Thank you to the thousands of doctors and nurses who make that happen, and thank you to our neighbors and residents who make this community jewel shine. Every hour of every day, we are here for you.
Dr. Pascal J. Goldschmidt is senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Carlos A. Migoya is president & CEO of the Jackson Health System.