Ebola training focuses on astronaut-like gear

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Ebola training focuses on astronaut-like gear
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: A member of Bellevue's Hospital staff wears protective clothing during a demonstration on how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: A member of Bellevue's Hospital staff wears protective clothing during a demonstration on how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Bellevue Hospital is viewed following a news conference on how the facility would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Members of Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Members of Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: A member of Bellevue's Hospital staff wears protective clothing during a demonstration on how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Members of Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Members of Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: A member of Bellevue's Hospital staff wears protective clothing during a demonstration on how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Members of Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Members of Bellevue Hospital staff wear protective clothing as they demonstrate how they would receive a suspected Ebola patient on October 8, 2014 in New York City. If the patient was confirmed to be carrying the deadly virus the person would be sent to an isolation unit for treatment. The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died at a Dallas hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A member of the U.S army medical staff works in the newly constructed Ebola treatment centre in Bongcounty, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Tuesday Oct. 7, 2014. Liberia has been among the hardest hit nations at the center of the long outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people. As of Friday, there had been 3,834 confirmed Ebola cases and 2,069 deaths in Liberia, according to the World Health Organization. Forty-four percent of those cases were reported in the past three weeks, a signal that the infectious disease is spreading. (AP Photo/Abbas Duller)
GBARNGA, LIBERIA - OCTOBER 07: U.S. Navy microbiologist Lt. Jimmy Regeimbal prepares to test blood samples for Ebola at the U.S. Navy mobile laboratory on October 5, 2014 near Gbarnga, Liberia. The U.S. now operates 4 mobile laboratories nationwide as part of the American response to the Ebola epidemic. The disease has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A licensed clinician sanitizes his hands after a simulated training session on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, in Anniston, Ala. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an introductory training course for licensed clinicians. According to the CDC, the course is to ensure that clinicians intending to provide medical care to patients with Ebola have sufficient knowledge of the disease. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
GBARNGA, LIBERIA - OCTOBER 07: U.S. Navy microbiologist Lt. Jimmy Regeimbal prepares to test blood samples for Ebola at the U.S. Navy mobile laboratory of on October 7, 2014 near Gbarnga in Bong County of central Liberia. The U.S. now operates 4 mobile laboratories in Liberia as part of the American response to the Ebola epidemic. The disease has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A volunteer in protective suit looks on after spraying disinfectant outside a home in Waterloo, some 30 kilometers southeast of Freetown, on October 7, 2014, prior to taking away from the house, with another volunteer, the body of a woman who died of Ebola. Dozens of British military personnel are due to fly to Sierra Leone next week to help build medical facilities to combat the Ebola epidemic, the defence ministry said on October 7. AFP PHOTO / FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR (Photo credit should read FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical staff wearing protective clothing arrives at the apartment building of the Spanish nurse infected with Ebola in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Officials said a nurse and a nursing assistant have been placed under observation for Ebola in a Madrid hospital where a colleague became infected after working with two Spanish missionary priests who contracted the disease in West Africa and later died at the center. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
WUERZBURG, GERMANY - OCTOBER 07: A volunteer doctor who will travel to West Africa to help care for Ebola patients is disinfectet during training offered by the German Red Cross (DRK) on October 7, 2014 in Wuerzburg, Germany. Over 1,200 people across Germany have responded to a DRK call for volunteers, while the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, has also asked for volunteers from its own ranks. Countries around the world are taking increasing precautions and committing resources in the battle against the deadly virus as the number of victims continues to climb. (Photo Timm Schamberger/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 05: A member of the Cleaning Guys Haz Mat clean up company takes a barrel of items out of the apartment where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was staying before being admitted to a hospital on October 5, 2014 in Dallas, Texas. The first confirmed Ebola virus patient in the U.S. was staying with family members at the Ivy Apartments complex before being moved for treatment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. State and local officials are working with federal officials to monitor other individuals that had contact with the confirmed patient. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PAYNESVILLE, LIBERIA - OCTOBER 05: A Doctors Without Borders (MSF), health worker in protective clothing holds a child suspected of having Ebola in the MSF treatment center on October 5, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The girl and her mother, showing symptoms of the deadly disease, were awaiting test results for the virus. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Mary Moorer leads a class with workers from the union 32BJ, many of them airline cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants, participate in a class on how to better protect themselves from infectious diseases in the wake of increased concerns around the Ebola virus on October 9, 2014 in New York City. The infectious disease training classes will be ongoing and teach members how to wear protective clothing and to safely handle potentially harmful body fluids they may come in contact with. It was announced on Wednesday that five airports across the United States will start screening passengers arriving from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Workers with the union 32BJ, many of them airline cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants, participate in a class on how to better protect themselves from infectious diseases in the wake of increased concerns around the Ebola virus on October 9, 2014 in New York City. The infectious disease training classes will be ongoing and teach members how to wear protective clothing and to safely handle potentially harmful body fluids they may come in contact with. It was announced on Wednesday that five airports across the United States will start screening passengers arriving from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Workers with the union 32BJ, many of them airline cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants, are handed protective gloves and a hand disinfectant as they participate in a class on how to better protect themselves from infectious diseases in the wake of increased concerns around the Ebola virus on October 9, 2014 in New York City. The infectious disease training classes will be ongoing and teach members how to wear protective clothing and to safely handle potentially harmful body fluids they may come in contact with. It was announced on Wednesday that five airports across the United States will start screening passengers arriving from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Workers with the union 32BJ, many of them airline cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants, participate in a class on how to better protect themselves from infectious diseases in the wake of increased concerns around the Ebola virus on October 9, 2014 in New York City. The infectious disease training classes will be ongoing and teach members how to wear protective clothing and to safely handle potentially harmful body fluids they may come in contact with. It was announced on Wednesday that five airports across the United States will start screening passengers arriving from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) -- The serious-faced physicians practice pulling on bulky white suits and helmets that make them look more like astronauts than doctors preparing to fight a deadly enemy. These training sessions at U.S. hospitals on Ebola alert and for health workers heading to Africa can make the reality sink in: Learning how to safely put on and take off the medical armor is crucial.

"When you're in the real deal, remember to take your time," biosafety expert John Bivona told doctors during a course this week at the University of Chicago's medical center. Suits splashed with patients' vomit or blood must be removed carefully, he explained.

"As much as possible, grab from the inside" to avoid touching contaminated parts of the suits, he said. "Be liberal with disinfectant."

Looking stoic after this week's training, Dr. Mark Nunnally said he's "not overly worried, but I think there's a legitimate concern" that someone with Ebola may arrive at the hospital's door.

An anesthesiologist, he's among about 35 doctors and nurses who've volunteered to treat any Ebola patients who may show up at the Chicago hospital. Nunnally said he volunteered because "somebody has to do it, and I think it's important to give care where there's a need."

The University of Chicago medical staffers get several hours of Ebola training, plus refresher courses and videos in donning and doffing protective gear.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week started training volunteer health workers heading to Africa to help fight the epidemic.

Dr. David Sugerman, an Emory University emergency room doctor heading soon to Sierra Leone, was among students in a CDC training session Monday in Anniston, Alabama.

Sugerman, who also works for the CDC, said breaches in health workers' protective gear in West Africa have contributed to Ebola's spread.

"You realize going through these exercises how easy that is," he said.

"In Sierra Leone or Liberia or Guinea it's going to be quite hot and humid. And you start sweating. And some of the procedures, like placing an IV, you get pretty nervous with a patient that you know has a high viral load," he said. "Then you get fogged up and you get anxious and you could start pulling at your" equipment, which could be contaminated with virus. "So you have to mentally go through this a number of times and become well-versed. So it becomes a routine."

For U.S. hospitals, the CDC has issued guidance on how to spot suspicious cases and isolate them if necessary, with an emphasis on the importance of asking patients about recent travel to the outbreak region, where more than 3,400 people have died from the disease.

The lone Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States had traveled from Liberia but was treated and released the first time he sought care. At first, the Dallas hospital he went to said it didn't know about his travel; it later said that information was provided and available to the medical staff caring for him.

"It's so easy to forget to ask about travel," said Dr. Emily Landon, director of a University of Chicago infection control program. "That's our one vulnerability."

Emergency room staffers are trained to focus on the most critical problem, like providing fast treatment for a heart attack or broken leg, she explained. If the same patient also has a fever and headache - common problems but also Ebola symptoms - "it's hard to break that autopilot and say, `Oh, by the way, did you travel'" recently, Landon said. "We have to get them to break that autopilot every time."

Across town, at Rush University Medical Center, doctors got a frightening test run this past weekend when a man coughing up blood said he had been in contact with someone from Nigeria, one of the countries in West Africa where Ebola spread.

ER staffers donned protective gear and immediately escorted him to a nearby isolation room, but tests showed he had bronchitis, not Ebola, said Dr. Dino Rumoro, Rush's emergency medicine chief.

Rumoro said he's worked through similar scary disease threats - AIDS, SARS, swine flu and smallpox after 9/11 - that were in some ways more worrisome because many of them can spread invisibly through the air. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with blood, vomit and other body fluids, or contact with needles, syringes or other objects contaminated by the virus.

"At least with Ebola we have a fighting chance," Rumoro said, "because I know that it is coming from body fluid and I know if I wear my (protective) suit I'm safe and I know if I don't stick myself with a needle or cut myself with a scalpel I'm safe."

"There's always going to be a little bit of fear in your head," Rumoro said. "But that's OK. That's what keeps us safe."

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AP video journalist Alex Sanz in Anniston, Alabama, contributed to this report.

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