October 21, 2014

Commissioners are briefed on
Dare Ebola preparedness


The Dare County Board of Commissioners was briefed at its meeting last evening on local preparedness for Ebola by Dr. Sheila Davies, the county's public health director.

Davies told the board that preparations at the state and local level for a possible case of Ebola began in July and are continuing to be honed and refined as new guidelines are issued by the Center for Disease Control.

The state, she said, has been "very active" in assessing community needs and preparedness.

Over the past few months, extensive guidance has been sent to local health care providers and procedures have been put in place to routinely screen and evaluate patients, according to an Oct. 10 news release from the state's Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health.

"North Carolina's health care community is ready to identify and respond to a case of Ebola," said Secretary Aldona Wos, M.D., in the news release. "If a case were to occur in North Carolina, state and local health officials would rapidly identify everyone who was potentially exposed and take immediate measures to prevent further spread. Our public health professionals have extensive training and experience with this type of investigation and response."

DHHS' State Laboratory of Public Health also has established the capability to rapidly detect Ebola infection using procedures and materials provided by the CDC and United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Davies told the commissioners that the state lab turn-around time on Ebola testing is six hours.

She added that state contact-tracing teams are also ready to be deployed and that 70 hospitals in the state have conducted Ebola drills.

Dare County's planning, Davies said, has included conference calls and webinars.

The county has established an interdisciplinary team that met for the first time last week and includes The Outer Banks Hospital, other health care providers, the county Emergency Management Department, Emergency Medical Services, county schools, law enforcement, and others.

Other preparations include:

All health care providers have been trained in interviewing patients who present with fever and flu-like symptoms and will ask them if they have traveled to West Africa in the past two to three weeks.

Public health officials and DHHS' Office of Emergency Medical Services have provided assistance to local EMS agencies with triage and treatment protocols for any potential Ebola patients.

The county Emergency Medical Service  is prepared to respond with one ambulance in which to load the patient.  EMS will notify Outer Banks Hospital, where officials will decide if the patient goes to that hospital or to a Vidant hospital in Greenville.

The EMS will isolate the first responders and decontaminate the ambulance.

The hospital is prepared to send specimens to the state lab in a timely manner, interview the patient, and begin contact tracing and quarantine protocols.

In response to a question from a board member about funding for the preparations, Davies said that the Dare County team had asked the state that question in last week's conference call.

She said that the state will provide supplies, but there is a question about the quantity.

In response to another question, she said the county does not have all the supplies that it will need right now, but discussions have been started to obtain them and about borrowing equipment.

"We would hope to know soon what we need to have," she said.

Davies said the team will continue meeting and refining its plans and that the response and plans will change as the situation changes.

In its news release the state Division of Public Health reiterated:

"Ebola is only contagious after the onset of symptoms. The incubation period before symptoms may appear is 2-21 days, with 8-10 days being the most common. Ebola is spread through unprotected contact with blood or body fluids from someone who is infected. Anyone who becomes ill within 21 days after traveling to an affected area in West Africa should contact a healthcare provider right away and limit their contact with others until they have been evaluated."

For more information on Ebola, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west- africa/index.html.

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