Wednesday, October 22, 2014

County makes plans for Ebola response

Meetings held to coordinate activities

Express Staff Writer

    Blaine County emergency response officials are beginning to coordinate plans to deal with a potential Ebola outbreak.
    Thirty-eight people attended a meeting on the subject Monday at the county’s Public Safety Facility in Hailey to refine current infectious disease protocols. Attendees included representatives from the county, the School District, South Central Health District and St. Luke’s hospital. A similar, smaller meeting was held last week.
    “While no patient in Idaho has been diagnosed or even been tested for Ebola to date, the community needs to be vigilant,” the Sheriff’s Office stated in a press release. “The draw of international visitors to the Sun Valley area combined with the well-traveled citizenry of Blaine County creates the potential for impact from world health issues.”
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three cases of the disease have been reported in the United States, with one fatality.
    “We feel it is incumbent to make plans and preparations for the worst-case scenario to ensure both the safety of our community and the safety of our first responders,” County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg said.
    Greenberg said officials involved will develop their own protocols this week, then share them with other agencies. He said a third meeting will be held next week to discuss potential scenarios and test how the various protocols fit together.
    Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman said the protocol for the ambulance services consist of preparedness, response and decontamination.
    “It really begins at the dispatch center,” he said. “They’re going to be asking some additional questions about how [a patient] has been feeling, if they’ve been traveling, who they’ve been in contact with.”
    Blaine County Medical Director Keith Sivertson said the situation for Ebola care is “very dynamic,” with guidelines changing on a daily basis.
    “We’re moving in a step-wise fashion,” he said. “Each time the CDC suggests a change, we’re figuring out how we deal with that.”
    On Monday, for example, the CDC issued an update on its guidance for protective gear to be worn by health-care workers. It stated that guidance on the types of protective equipment to be used and on the processes for putting it on and removing it reflects lessons learned from recent experiences of U.S. hospitals caring for Ebola patients. It emphasized the importance of training and observation of health-care workers in correct procedures, and stated that care of Ebola patients must be supervised at all times.
    The CDC states that Ebola is not spread by casual contact, air, water or food grown or bought in the United States. To contract the disease, someone must have direct contact with bodily fluids of someone who is sick or died from Ebola, objects such as syringes contaminated with the Ebola virus or infected animals. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
    Symptoms of Ebola include common flu signs such as fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and muscle pain. Ebola also includes some unique symptoms such as unusual bleeding or bruising and combined with coming into contact with international travelers of specific regions. Symptoms can appear between two and 21 days of exposure with the average being eight to 10 days.
Greg Moore:

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