SNOHOMISH COUNTY -- Although health officials believe Ebola cases are “very unlikely” in Washington state, paramedics are preparing to treat possible patients.
Snohomish County Fire District One will use a specialized ambulance to respond to suspected cases.
The interior of the vehicle was stripped out and lined with protective plastic. It will be dispatched from Fire Station 12.
"We are creating a safe environment that we can clean," Capt. Shaughn Maxwell said.
For the first time Sunday, the ambulance was sent out to pick up a sick patient who recently traveled to Africa. A 911 operator screened the call and sent out the emergency team, but responding paramedics determined it was a false alarm.
"The likelihood that we are actually going to see a case of Ebola, much less a death due to Ebola, is really very, very low," said Dr. Gary Goldbaum with the Snohomish Health District.
The county is implementing new policies and procedures for responding to suspected Ebola cases. In addition to the specialized ambulance, first-responders are practicing putting on their protective gear. Paramedics are also asking patients specific questions about their travel history.
"I recognize how worried a lot of people are, but I hope people will appreciate there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes," Goldbaum said.
King County Medic One also outfitted a vehicle to transport patients in King County. Health officials say the vehicles will provide rapid treatment while limiting exposure to healthcare workers and the public.
There have been no reported cases of Ebola in Washington, according to health officials.