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Communication, training defines NC Ebola response

Posted October 13, 2014
Updated October 14, 2014

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— 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.

12 Comments

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  • A cold, hard dose of Hans Oct 14, 2014

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    LOL! Nice.

  • archmaker Oct 14, 2014

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    speaking of which, happy Columbus Day

  • disgusted2010 Oct 14, 2014

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    I'm sure your all encompassing government will protect you.

  • lobgill7 Oct 14, 2014

    "People just need something to be scared of all the time I guess"
    Someone said not too long ago about not letting a good crises go to waste.

  • jaydosse Oct 14, 2014

    A Fox news report stated the following:
    "Pham and other health care workers wore protective gear, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields - and sometimes full-body suits - when caring for Duncan, "

    ---------------------
    Why wasn't the hospital protocol mandating full body protective suits while treating Mr. Duncan?? Someone needs to be held accountable for this mess!!! This is a virulent, highly contagious disease and full body protective suits should have been utilized, not just gowns, gloves, masks and face shields. We are dealing with gross incompetence at all levels. I have lost faith in any reporting coming out of Washington or the CDC.

  • A cold, hard dose of Hans Oct 14, 2014

    Sorry, be we have people becoming infected here and overseas despite complete protection and people dying despite the best treatment available. They don't know what they're dealing with here, and we're all in deep doo doo.

  • sinenomine Oct 14, 2014

    WAGESLAVE is correct in pointing out that people often assess an unfamiliar threat as being a greater peril than a more dangerous but familiar hazard. By way of example, the chance of any one of us being killed in an automobile accident far exceeds the chance that any of WRAL's readers will get Ebola but most of use will still ride in a car today without thinking about the hazards.

    Comparing flu and Ebola, however, is a false equivalence. Flu usually doesn't kill; Ebola does. Flu has an effective preventative; Ebola does not. And while flu can usually be overcome with home treatment using over-the-counter medicines Ebola treatment yields probably at best, all things considered, a fifty per cent chance of survival even given specialized equipment and trained staff.

    People don't need to be scared, just alert. Panic, prejudice, and irrationality are not called for and will inevitably prove counterproductive.

  • WageSlave Oct 14, 2014

    Lol, fear fear fear. People are so predictable.

    Ebola has been around for 38 years. This "outbreak" has killed less than 4,000 people in WEST AFRICA, the best dream conditions of most bacteria/virus.

    Meanwhile, 49,000 AMERICANS died in America last year because of the seasonal flu.

    People just need something to be scared of all the time I guess.

  • sinenomine Oct 14, 2014

    I find the appearance of Governor McCrory before the cameras telling us what fine fettle North Carolina is in where Ebola is concerned more troubling than reassuring.

    If the experience in Dallas indicates anything it is that Ebola cannot reliably be treated at a local hospital, even one with great expertise in the treatment of other infectious diseases.

    I hope that should Ebola present here the patient will be transported to Atlanta, Omaha, or Missoula where specialized facilities and training exist. The same goes for any Ebola victim in the United States.

  • A cold, hard dose of Hans Oct 14, 2014

    Don't put on your stupid hats!

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