Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the city of Chicago is prepared to handle the Ebola virus, should it surface in the city.
Emanuel convened cabinet members, public health officials and hospital leaders Friday to discuss the city’s preparedness and coordination strategies.
“This meeting solidifies our city’s readiness during a time of heightened awareness of Ebola,” Emanuel said in a statement. “The City of Chicago has long-established and successful procedures in place when preparing and executing emergency health services.”
Officials maintain the risk to Chicago residents remains low and there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Illinois, however, the city’s health officials continue to take extra precautions.
“Out of an abundance of caution, CDPH has set in place coordinated efforts with all of the city’s public safety and transportation departments to handle any potential threats this virus may present to our residents,” he said.
Since the first U.S. Ebola case was detected, officials have been preparing for any potential spread to the city, particularly at O’Hare International Airport.
O’Hare was among five airports nationwide to begin an Ebola screening process that takes the temperatures of travelers from three West African countries.
Officials also began training first responders on necessary precautions, including requiring 911 dispatchers to inquire about a caller’s recent travels if they are experiencing Ebola-like symptoms.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has also said that two Chicago hospitals are being considered for Ebola treatment centers, should someone test positive for the virus in Illinois.
“While any hospital in Illinois that follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s infections control recommendations and can isolate a patient in a private room can care for a patient, a designated hospital will have staff with Ebola-specific training,” the IDPH said in a statement.
IDPH said previously that Rush University Medical Center and Presence Resurrection Medical Center are among those considered.
Rush has already been training volunteers on how to handle any potential cases and has even begun expanding its intensive care unit to have biocontainment capacity similar to what to the CDC possesses.
The state has also been designated as one of the few states able to perform Ebola testing, the IDPH said.
"While our health department and private hospitals are well- prepared and equipped for the spread of any infectious disease that may pose a threat to our city, it is important to remember how unlikely the risk of Ebola is to Chicago’s residents,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair. “We will continue to proceed with the upmost precaution in all potential cases that may enter our city.”
The IDPH on Thursday activated an Ebola hotline for residents with concerns or questions about the virus. The phone number for the hotline is (800)-889-3931.
Those answering calls at the Illinois Poison Control Center say the hotline is already being used by several residents.
“Most them are pretty reasonable questions,” said Michael Long with the Illinois Poison Control Center. “What are the symptoms, what are the risk factors of getting Ebola. I wouldn’t say there is a lot of panic, but there is a lot of curiosity.”
The department also said they are forming an Ebola task force made up of medical, health care, emergency response and state officials “to further strengthen our ability to respond to Ebola.”