Communication, training defines NC Ebola response
Posted October 13, 2014
Updated October 14, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Communication and training will be critical in how North Carolina contains and responds to any Ebola cases, state officials said Monday.
“I want to be 100 percent clear: There are no known or suspected cases of Ebola in North Carolina,” Gov. Pat McCrory said during a media briefing outlining the state’s Ebola response efforts. “I would rather be underwhelmed than overwhelmed and not prepared.”
The update comes after recently confirmed cases in Texas and Ebola scares across the country, including one in Boone last week.
State officials are using lessons learned during the smallpox and SARS epidemics in 2003 in their response to Ebola, said state epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies, who is overseeing North Carolina’s Ebola preparations.
Davies outlined a number of efforts, including:
- The completion of “extensive” Ebola preparations for at least 70 hospitals across the state, including drills and reviews of emergency plans.
- Establishing isolation and quarantine guidelines for county health departments.
- Speedier access to health records of potential Ebola patients.
- Providing guidance for funeral directors in the handling of those who succumb to Ebola.
- Creating guidelines for the handling of human waste of Ebola patients.
- Community outreach efforts to West African communities across the state.
- Establishing an information line for those with questions about Ebola – (800) 222-1222
American Ebola concerns were heightened recently after Thomas Eric Duncan, 29, who arrived in Dallas from Liberia in September to visit family, was the first person to be diagnosed with the virus on American soil. He died Oct. 8.
A nurse who wore protective gear while caring for Duncan tested positive for the virus, officials said Sunday. It is the first known transmission of Ebola on American soil.
A freelance American cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was diagnosed with Ebola on Oct. 2 while working in Liberia. He is currently being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center.
Ebola protocols were tested in North Carolina on Thursday after a patient was admitted to Watauga Medical Center. The man said he recently traveled overseas and complained of a fever. He eventually tested negative for the virus. The hospital started educating and training staff on Ebola procedures in August.
The scare came two days after Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC), in a letter dated Oct. 6 to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, expressed concern regarding the lack of Ebola training for airport personnel.
“After speaking with a senior administrative official at RDU International Airport, I have verified the unfortunate reality that airport personnel are untrained and unequipped to handle this epidemic,” she wrote.
There are no direct flights to or from RDU or Charlotte Douglas International Airport to the African countries impacted by Ebola, McCrory said.
But some are concerned that the virus could spread via public transportation. State Department of Transportation employees at train stations, airports, sea ports and bus terminals across the state have been told what to do if there's a suspected case of Ebola, DOT Secretary Tony Tata said.
"All of these employees understand to identify, contain, get a count of people in the immediate area and then notify the proper resources to come in and address the situation as they are trained to do," Tata said.
The Ebola outbreak, which began in West Africa in March, reached American mass media consciousness in July when Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, and missionary Nancy Writebol, 59, who is from Charlotte, contracted the virus while caring for Ebola patients in Liberia. Both have recovered from the virus.
To date, 8,376 cases of Ebola have been reported in three African nations (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), and 4,024 people have died from the virus, according to The World Health Organization.