Oil industry reps meet in New Orleans to prepare for Ebola

Oil industry reps meet in New Orleans to prepare for Ebola

FOX 8 learned exclusively about a world-wide meeting of oil industry representatives, which took place Friday in New Orleans.

The topic: How best to monitor workers and prepare off-shore paramedics for Ebola.

Representatives from companies such as Shell, Chevron, Schlumberger and Noble Drilling attended the meeting. Other representatives, some as far away as Angola in South West Africa, attended through a conference call and video-chat.

Dr. Michael Kotler with RemoteMD, a New Orleans company with medical control of rigs all over the world, realized it's not just the Louisiana and Texas workers who travel to North West Africa they need to be concerned about. It's also important to consider the service people who fly from all over the world to the rigs in the Gulf Coast.

"It can go both ways. They can be working over here," said Kotler.

Kotler said he was kept up at night with the thought that his medical employees, who work on rigs across the globe, may be at risk.

"There are a number of different service companies that service the oil field, and they have specialists that travel worldwide and at at some point they might have people working in Africa or doing extensive travel throughout these areas where the disease is endemic, and then they'll come here and go offshore," said Kotler.

It took Kotler just days to organize a meeting at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, so industry leaders could learn from those who have been on the ground in infected areas.

"They have doctors working in the endemic areas such as Sierra Leone. So, we can learn first-hand from them how worried we should be," said Kotler.

"We have several colleagues who have first-hand experience with Ebola," said Pierre Buekens, MD, PhD, dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. So, they can provide advise and make sure we understand how to deal with the risk."

Buekens said that risk is very low.

"It's very unlikely to happen, but I understand that the oil and gas industry want to make sure they do everything they can to be safe, but also to make sure that everybody working with them again is understanding that the risk is very low. We have to take it seriously without any panic," he said.

Buekens said it is still important to be prepared. The school's experts discussed the best questions to ask and disease screening methods to ensure anyone who is sick stays off the rig.

"That would be done before anyone would even step foot on a helicopter to go offshore. We would know before they even get on the helicopter whether there's any risk and deal with it at that point," said Kotler.

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