KANSAS CITY, Mo. — New protocols added to the fire department on Tuesday will help paramedics and emergency medical technicians identify potential coronavirus patients and limit the spread of infection.
If you call 911 for help because you or a loved one is sick, the emergency dispatcher is always going to ask for a description of signs and symptoms. Starting today, dispatchers also will ask if the patient has traveled recently.
Paramedics will presume a patient may have encountered the coronavirus if the caller provides a description of flu-like symptoms combined with recent travel, even within the United States.
Rescue crews will wear masks, just as they would when helping someone with influenza. But the fire department is taking an additional step of having its first responders put on protective polyethylene Tyvek suits.
“During the Ebola virus scare we did the exact same thing,” KCFD Assistant Chief Jimmy Walker said. “We had a series of questions we asked when we received the 911 call to try to determine if they are a potential carrier of Ebola, so we are doing the same thing with the coronavirus.”
Health officials in the U.S. have said it’s not a matter of if the sickness will spread in the country, but rather when it will spread. If that happens, Walker said paramedics are expected to treat anyone with flu-like symptoms as a potential carrier of the coronavirus. He also said the fire department has an adequate supply of N-95 masks and Tyvek suits for its paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
All Kansas City firefighters are also trained as EMTs.
The fire department has been alerted to a couple of individuals who are under self-imposed isolation in Kansas City. Emergency responders don’t know who they are or where they live, but they will be notified about their condition if they need to take them to the hospital.