No announcement yet.

N.C. Jail to Be Overflow Quarantine Area

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • N.C. Jail to Be Overflow Quarantine Area

    Jail to Be Overflow Quarantine Area: Patients Would Be Sent There During Pandemic, Emergency Officials
    Jun 14, 09:17 AM

    By Karen Garloch, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

    Jun. 14--If a flu pandemic were to fill Charlotte hospitals, emergency officials plan to use part of the Mecklenburg County jail for overflow patients.

    The "weekender unit," part of Jail Central at 801 E. Fourth St., could accommodate 350 patients, including 18 in isolation rooms, according to Dr. Tom Blackwell, an emergency physician with Carolinas Medical Center and medical director of Medic.

    The unit was designed for offenders who serve time only on weekends, but Blackwell said it will be used for patients in an emergency.

    "It's not even connected to the jail," he said Tuesday. "It's like a small Holiday Inn, if you will."

    Blackwell's comments came during a briefing for the board of Carolinas HealthCare System, the public entity that operates Carolinas Medical.

    Charlotte is considered a "high-risk terrorist site" because it's a banking center with large-scale sporting events and the only U.S. city with two nuclear power stations and four reactors within 25 miles of downtown, Blackwell said. He said the area's emergency responders have been preparing for natural and manmade disasters since 1997, years before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

    "Sleep good tonight," Blackwell told the board. "We've got your backs covered."

    Many of the plans that would protect the community against a chemical, biological or nuclear disaster will be used in case of a bird flu pandemic.

    For now, bird flu has infected more than 200 people worldwide, most of whom contracted the virus from birds. Some have become ill through close contact with infected family members, and experts worry the virus will mutate to become easily transmissible among humans.

    In the 11-county Charlotte area, Blackwell said hospitals, law enforcement agencies and other emergency responders know how many ventilators, isolation rooms and other medical resources are available to share in a crisis.

    "We can provide support," he said. "Everyone is speaking off the same sheet of music."

    In July, Mecklenburg County agencies will participate in a pandemic flu drill to see "where our gaps are ... and what we need to do to fill those gaps."

    For a potential flu pandemic, Blackwell said Carolinas Medical Center has stockpiled supplies, such as masks and gloves, and is educating health-care workers to recognize flu symptoms and use good hygiene, including frequent hand washing.

    If a human strain of the bird flu were to appear anywhere in the world, health-care providers would begin questioning patients about potential contact with the virus. They would also provide masks for patients suspected of having the infection, give preventive antiviral treatments to health-care workers and limit the number of visitors to health-care settings.

    If bird flu cases were discovered in North Carolina, "that's when we go into high gear," Blackwell said.

    Hospital employees with flu symptoms would be sent home, patients would be limited to certain parts of the hospital, and isolation areas would be provided for those with flu.

    For extra capacity, Carolinas Medical would also roll out the one-of-a-kind mobile hospital used for Hurricane Katrina relief last fall.

    Carolinas MED-1, designed by Blackwell, was built with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It travels in a convoy that includes two tractor-trailers that convert into a 100-patient hospital.

    Phases of Flu Pandemic

    Phase 1: No new flu virus detected in humans. A flu virus that has caused human illness may be present in animals, but the risk to humans is low.Phase 2: No new flu virus detected in humans. But a circulating animal virus poses risk to humans.

    Phase 3: (Current phase) No or very limited human-human transmission of new virus.

    Phase 4: Small clusters of human-human transmission. Virus is not well adapted to humans.

    Phase 5: Large clusters of human transmission. Virus becoming better adapted to humans but not fully transmissible.

    Phase 6: Pandemic has begun. Virus has mutated and moves among humans with only brief contact. plan for spread of bird flu