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The governor meets with health officials as a Sarasota scare is confirmed harmless.
Published Oct. 6, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott huddled with state health officials Saturday in a closed-door meeting to discuss Florida's readiness in case of an Ebola outbreak.

In Sarasota, meanwhile, doctors said Saturday that it is "highly unlikely" that a hospital patient who had recently been to West Africa has the deadly virus. The male patient was taken out of isolation.

After the governor's meeting in a downtown Tampa hotel, Scott said there were no confirmed cases of Ebola in Florida. But if one is found, the governor said, the state is ready.

Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong, Division of Emergency Management director Bryan Koon and Agency for Health Care Administration secretary Elizabeth Deduk all attended the governor's meeting. They're coordinating the state's Ebola response with local health officials, Scott said.

"They are having constant contact with our county department of healths, our county emergency management teams, the health care providers around the state, just to make sure everybody is prepared," Scott said. "We are going to continue to do this and, again, I hope we never will have a case, but I can tell you we will be prepared if there is a case."

The Florida Department of Health later issued a statement outlining the measures it's taking to prepare for the worst.

Those include coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine when patients need to be tested for Ebola; instructing Florida hospitals on how to best detect and treat the virus, and prevent it from spreading inside medical facilities; and providing guidance to emergency responders on how to safely treat and transport patients who might have the virus.

The Tampa meeting was held one day after an Ebola scare at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. An unidentified man who had recently arrived in the area from West Africa came to the hospital with "Ebola-like symptoms," according to hospital officials.

The hospital went on "high alert" and placed the man in isolation as a precaution, hospital officials said. But doctors said he did not meet the CDC's criteria to test patients for Ebola. The hospital said doctors determined it is unlikely that the patient has the virus. The patient was feeling better on Saturday, officials said, and was removed from isolation.

The governor said his meeting in Tampa had been planned before concerns about the Sarasota patient came to light.

"You can just watch the news and know this is something you need to be prepared for," Scott said, "so I wanted to make sure we're all doing the right things and everybody is coordinating their activities."