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Los Angeles County Public Health prepares for potential Ebola cases

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UNDATED:  In this handout from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a Ebola virus virion is seen. As the Ebola virus continues to spread across parts of Africa, a second doctor infected with the disease has arrived in the U.S. for treatment.  (Photo by Center for Disease Control (CDC) via Getty Images)
CDC/Getty Images
In this handout from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a Ebola virus virion is seen. As the Ebola virus continues to spread across parts of Africa, a second doctor infected with the disease has arrived in the U.S. for treatment.

After the first person in America was diagnosed with Ebola this week, officials in other big cities are working to make sure the same mistake doesn't happen again.

There was a milestone this week no wanted to see — the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in America.

Officials say the man, Thomas Eric Duncan, could have infected as many as 100 people because the first time he showed up at a Dallas, Texas hospital — presenting with a fever and admitting he had just traveled from West Africa — he was sent home.

This unfortunate healthcare scare brings up the question: What are officials doing in other big cities to make sure the same mistake doesn't happen again?

Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser is the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County and he says LA County Public Health is working directly with all County hospitals to make sure that staff is informed and can identify potential cases as soon as possible.

But Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Duncan presented, was educating staff and adhering to Centers for Disease Control checklists too. And despite a nurse flagging Duncan's electronic health record with his symptoms and his travel history, that record was not received by attending physicians and he was sent home with antibiotics.

"I think every healthcare system in the nation is taking note of that, because no one wants to have that mistake repeated," says Dr. Gunzenhauser. 

And in Los Angeles County, Dr. Gunzenhauser insists they've been assured by hospitals that, "they're collecting information in their emergency rooms and elsewhere, so that, if a person has that [travel] history, they're going to be identified and reported to us."

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