Is Jacksonville ready for a case of Ebola?

Liberians in Florida raises money to help fight disease in Africa

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a Liberian man was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, News4Jax wanted to know just how easily could the virus get here? And are health officials ready to contain an outbreak?

Officials at UF Health in Jacksonville said they're ready if someone with Ebola were to walk through their doors.

Hospital officials said it's important to identify patients with potential symptoms and then ask them about recent international travel.

They said if it's suspected someone has Ebola, that patient would be taken to a restricted isolation ward while doctors wait for test results.

They said they have a designated treatment team, and staff are trained to wear protective gear if someone with the infection comes there.

"Our health care force, our health care community, our state Department of Health are monitoring this actively, daily," said Dr. Kelli Wells, director of the Duval County Health Department. "This is a constant part of our conversation."

According to hospital officials, UF Health personnel are also conducting drills so that teams know how to properly use personal protective equipment.

The Texas case shows just how difficult it is for health officials to diagnose symptoms of Ebola, which can easily be confused with the flu.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pains and headaches.

Health officials said the virus isn't airborne like the flu, and it's spread through blood, saliva and urine.

That's why they say things like hand washing and not sharing utensils are important.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the chance of Ebola spreading to the U.S. as an epidemic are low.

A spokeman at Jacksonville International Airport said there are no flights from Africa here and the airport's protocols haven't changed.

He also said airlines and airports are being vigilant.

The group Liberians in Florida is raising money for equipment and medical supplies to help stop the spread of the disease in Liberia.

"Our people are dying. They're dying in numbers," said Abraham Bah. "The number of cases are still increasing and it's not declining, and that's really worrisome."

Members of the group said there are thousands of Liberians in Jacksonville and they have raised thousands of dollars to help stop the spread of Ebola in Liberia.

"We have parents back home," Jeje Jackson said. "We have brothers and sisters and family back home. Friends back home."

To make a donation to Liberians in Florida to raise money for medical supplies in Liberia, go to the group's website: www.liberiansinfl.org.