A researcher working with the Ebola virus while wearing a BSL-4 positive pressure suit to avoid infection.
EDWARDSVILLE — In the unlikely event the Ebola virus surfaces in Madison County, the public health department, hospitals and elected officials have developed comprehensive, coordinated plans and procedures to respond should the situation arise.
An overview of the Ebola virus, current planning and response updates, and local preparedness efforts were the subject of a meeting held Friday, Oct. 24, with health department officials, county officials and hospital representatives at the Madison County Health Department in Wood River.
Madison County Board Chairman Alan J. Dunstan, who also serves as chairman of the Board of Health, said the meeting was “a timely opportunity to call together key representatives from public health, health care and other front-line partners to share current preparedness activities occurring in each discipline and ensure continued coordination of our efforts here in Madison County. It is the responsibility of Madison County officials, public health officials and health care providers to protect our residents as best we can, and we are attempting to do just that.”
Staff in public health and health care are trained and equipped to respond to infectious diseases. Public health and health care providers in Madison County maintain and implement plans for identifying, preventing, containing and treating infectious diseases every day as part of normal operations. Daily communication and surveillance efforts are a staple in protecting the public’s health on a regular basis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the lead for the Ebola response efforts and, in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), provide guidance and information on the virus. In Illinois, healthcare providers are required to report any unusual case or cluster of cases that may indicate a public health hazard immediately (or within three hours) to the local health department.
Efforts specifically related to Ebola preparedness begin with the hospitals and health department. Local hospitals are conducting additional staff training staff, reviewing plans, securing additional personal protective equipment and exercising possible Ebola scenarios. The Madison County Health Department will handle disease reporting, surveillance, monitoring of travelers, monitoring of situations of possible persons with signs and symptoms, laboratory testing requests, contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation.
The health department is contacting community partners, identifying and addressing gaps, conducting additional staff training staff, reviewing plans, securing additional personal protective equipment and exercising possible Ebola scenarios.
“We are very diligent in our daily efforts to monitor disease patterns and situations in Madison County and in partnership with other local health departments in the bi-state region,” Madison County Health Department Public Health Administrator Toni Corona said. “In public health, we are prepared to respond and will continue to maintain our efforts to do so.”
Ebola is a virus contracted through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and the person must have symptoms to spread the disease to others. If they have no symptoms, they are not contagious. The incubation period is usually 8 to 10 days after exposure but can range from two to 21 days.
Current persons of concern for possibly having Ebola are those who have recently been to the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia who are experiencing the following symptoms: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising. Anyone who recently visited any of those three countries and are showing any of these signs or symptoms should report to the nearest hospital immediately.
Dunstan commended the efforts of all of the parties coming together to prepare for the potential discovery of an Ebola case in Madison County.
“The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, and is currently mostly confined to West Africa,” he said. “Madison County and our partners are taking every precaution to protect our residents should a case arise locally, and to help the effort to prevent the further spread of Ebola within the United States.”
For more information about Ebola, visit www.cdc.gov/ebola or call the Illinois Department of Public Health’s 24-hour hotline at (800) 889-3931.