UT Medical Center practices infectious disease plan, rarely used

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As medical professionals around the world work to treat patients with a novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, the University of Tennessee Medical Center is prepared for anything

UT Medical Center has a plan in place to respond to all infectious diseases. It’s called the pandemic novel infectious disease plan.

While it’s rarely used, medical staff at the hospital are trained and prepared to put it into action if a patient’s symptoms require it.

“Our team was enhanced not too long back to respond to Ebola alerts. We’ve had some Ebola alerts, that were fortunately false positive,” infectious disease physician Mark Rasnake said.

Rasnake says it’s uncommon to use the plan, but at times, patients with specific symptoms have triggered it to be used for a short time. Ultimately, he said those patients did not test positive for a novel virus.

“This would be more enhanced use of personal protective equipment, require escorting the patient through the facility … special rooms with special air handling so that the air doesn’t recirculate to other things,” Rasnake said.

It is standard procedure to ask patients about their travel history, Rasnake says, especially if there is a current outbreak of a novel virus in a specific area of the world.

UT Medical Center has signs at the entrance reminding anyone entering the hospital to notify staff if they have traveled to China recently.

However, Rasnake says it’s more likely to treat patients with influenza.

“I have several people in the hospital who are still suffering from severe cases of influenza. That still remains the main threat to East Tennessee,” he said.

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