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As West Africa Ebola Outbreak Worsens, KCAL9 Takes A Look Inside SoCal’s ‘Quarantine Center’ For Infectious Disease

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SYLMAR (CBSLA.com) — KCAL9 has taken a look inside Southern California’s only quarantine center in the wake of West Africa’s worsening Ebola outbreak.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have placed their emergency operations center on the highest response level due to the disease, which has claimed more than 900 lives, and sent out an alert to all hospitals making sure staffers know the symptoms.

At home in Sylmar, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center is designed to treat people who are infected with highly contagious diseases.

On Wednesday, infectious disease specialists took KCAL9’s Serene Branson inside the facility, one of the largest isolation units in the Southland dedicated to decontamination.

Glenn Mathisen, director of the infectious disease unit at Olive View, gave CBS2/KCAL9 an inside look at the 15-room isolation facility built after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to deal with threats like bioterrorism.

Doctors at the facility are treating 10 tuberculosis patients.

“They would be directly into unit and bypass the emergency room,” Mathisen said, noting operations vary from other L.A.-area hospitals.

“They have isolation rooms that are similar to this, but what’s unique about this facility is 15 rooms all together in one facility, so we can bring [patients] directly in from outside,” he said.

Branson and Mathisen did not have to wear masks during the tour because of a special alarm-monitored venting system of negative pressure.

“If you were to open the door here, rather than air going out of the room into the corridor and potentially exposing people, the air would come into the room and prevent the pathogen in here from going outside,” he explained.

Along with their ability to treat a large number of patients, doctors discussed protocol, and showed the gowns and masks that would be used on patients.

“We have different resources here in the United States in terms of healthcare facilities and the ability to isolate any suspect patient,” Mathisen said.

While stressing the severity of the crisis in Africa, President Barack Obama has maintained Ebola can be contained effectively in the U.S.

“Let’s get health workers on the ground. Let’s bolster the system in place. Let’s nip any additional outbreaks of the disease,” he said this week.

Obama stopped short of supporting the fast-tracking of experimental drugs, however, noting that more research needs to be conducted.

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