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Ebola: We Need to Remain Vigilant



We haven’t talked about Ebola in a while. Please, hold your applause. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s gone.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) identified 33 new cases worldwide. That’s down from an average of 1,000 cases per week back in October, but new cases are diagnosed each week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the active virus appears to be transmissible via sexual contact by Ebola survivors at least for a few weeks after symptoms have resolved. Therefore, the increasing number of worldwide survivors also increases the risk of spread, at least for a short period.

February 2015 data shows that nearly 8,000 adults and children have been screened in American airports as they return from Ebola-affected countries (that’s more than 99% of all returning travelers). Each returning traveler receives public health screening at the airport and a “Check and Report Ebola Kit.” The kit contains information about signs and symptoms, a thermometer and a cell phone to call health officials if symptoms should appear. Equally important, the returning travelers are connected to state or local public health departments in their final U.S. destination, where they will be monitored for 21 days.

The CDC and Department of Health and Human Services have invested substantially to create Ebola assessment hospitals at the local community level, and to establish 35 Ebola treatment facilities across the country. Patient transportation agreements are being developed in many states. These efforts not only respond to the current Ebola crisis, but also significantly improve our preparedness for emerging infectious diseases.

So what’s the message?

  • We need to remain vigilant. Each day, 125 airline passengers arrive in the U.S. from Ebola-affected countries. Each is screened and connected to local or state public health officials for monitoring. There are individuals being monitored following Ebola exposure in every community we serve.
  • We need to maintain our relationships with local and state public health officials. A certain percentage of the monitored patients will develop a fever or other Ebola symptoms. While it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that those individuals will have Ebola, it will be necessary for them to be evaluated in an Ebola assessment facility. We may be asked to transport individuals who have been exposed to Ebola and have Ebola symptoms to designated facilities for evaluation.
  • We need to remain informed. AMR.net/Ebola and the national Williams Medical Command Center remain active and available as resources for AMR leaders and caregivers. While we have not added new information to the website in a few months, the materials are current and will be updated again if there are any changes in protocol. If you are evaluating a patient with Ebola-like symptoms and need assistance at any time 24/7, call the EVHC Clinician Hotline, 855.448.1742. In addition, visit AMR.net/Ebola for resources and updates, and feel free to share that information with your first response partners.

I am extremely proud of our organization’s ongoing response to Ebola. Since January, crews have documented Ebola screening for more than 375,000 patients (approximately 44% of all patient contacts) and have identified 124 as patients under investigation (PUI). While none of the PUI were diagnosed with Ebola, these numbers speak to our need to remain vigilant. Keep up the good work. We’ll stay in touch.

Scott Bourn is Vice President Clinical Practices and Research for AMR

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