Paramedics use special equipment to protect themselves against flu, coronavirus

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- If there is an outbreak of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, in Wake County, healthcare workers will be on the front lines.

"Most people in the healthcare field and EMS in general are in it for helping other people," paramedic Jason Jones said.

Jones has been a paramedic for 11 years, nine of them working for Wake County Emergency Medical Services.

He said emergency medical technicians have access to PPE, or personal protective equipment and are trained to properly use it.

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"We've received a lot of information from our administration and I think that we're very well prepared to handle any patient that we get including those with coronavirus," Jones said.

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Jones said EMT's are already trained to use gowns and surgical masks for flu patients, but need to wear a different mask for a suspected novel coronavirus patient.

"This is an N-95 mask," Jones said, pulling a mask out a bin in the ambulance. "It has to actually be fitted for the provider so every year we have to be fitted with a mask that's right for our face. And it provides a much higher level of respiratory protection."

When an ambulance crew responds to a sick call, direct of Wake County's Emergency Medical Services Dr. Jose Cabanas said 911 dispatchers ask patients about their symptoms.
Now, they have to ask additional questions.

"Given the concerns with COVID-19 they're asking specific travel questions for patients that are calling 911 that may potentially have influenza-like symptoms," Cabanas said.

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He also said county health officials are doing all they can to protect healthcare workers on the front lines in the event of an outbreak.

"When there is a novel virus that is affecting globally and is affecting the United States, we stay attentive and we make sure that our providers are receiving all the information they need to make sure that they're safe and able to provide care to our citizens," Cabanas said while noting that keeping EMTs healthy means better service for citizens.

Jones said he and his colleagues are ready to respond.

"We're here to help to help the public," Jones said. "We're protected so I'm not worried about a risk to myself. So I'm definitely ready to respond and help others when needed."

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