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5:27 AM Wed, Dec. 12th

County health officials prepared to deal with Ebola

The Ebola virus. (The Associated Press)

The Ebola virus. (The Associated Press)

PRESCOTT - After last week's first confirmed U.S. case of the Ebola virus in Dallas, local officials say it's not a question of if, but when, the virus will manifest in other states.

Yavapai County health officials say they are prepared to respond to Ebola should it come to the region.

"We expect it to come to Arizona eventually," David McAtee, public information officer for Yavapai Community Health Services, said by phone Thursday. "We have a great infrastructure. These people are prepared as any country."

At a federal level, last week's outbreak was no surprise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been expecting Ebola to show up in the U.S.

But two significant differences set the U.S. apart from African countries where the disease has spread. First, the U.S. has prior experience with similar outbreaks: Marburg virus and Lassa fever.

Both are types of viral hemorrhagic fever, or VHF, similar to Ebola. Health officials have a track record of successfully identifying and containing VHF from spreading within the U.S.

Second, domestic health authorities already have the infrastructure in place to stop the spread of viral diseases like Ebola, compared to African countries where officials have been playing a game of catch-up to build infrastructure as the disease spread.

Across the U.S., health officials have successfully identified VHF cases, isolated ill people, contact others who may have been exposed and isolated contacts if they develop systems - the exact steps health officials in Texas followed last week.

"While it's not impossible that there could be additional cases in associated with this disease in the coming weeks, we have systems in place to prevent the spread of this disease," health department Director Stephen Tullos said.

CDC officials outlines several steps to prepare for Ebola:

• Enhancing surveillance and laboratory testing capacity in states to detect cases.

• Developing guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations.

• Providing recommendations for healthcare infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread.

• Providing guidance for flight crews, emergency medical services units at airports and Customs and Border Protection officers about reporting ill travelers to CDC.

• Disseminating information to the general public, international travelers and public health partners.

McAtee said YCCHS has been working with local health care providers to follow the CDC guidelines through extra vigilance and awareness of possible Ebola cases.

Once identified, the treatment for Ebola patients is limited to supportive therapy; there is no FDA-approved vaccine of medicine available for treatment. Health providers supply patients with intravenous fluids and balancing electrolytes, maintain oxygen status and blood pressure, and treat other infections as they occur.

Follow reporter Les Bowen on Twitter @newsylesbowen.