The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued enhanced screenings at five U.S. airports amid concerns that passengers traveling from Ebola-affected countries may spread the virus to their final destinations. The CDC, countless health organizations and local health departments around the world have been working to contain the largest Ebola epidemic in history.
In Kentucky, health officials say they’re prepared for the off-hand chance that Ebola reaches the state.
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said Louisville has a standard emergency preparedness process in place.
“We expect that we would be prepared if an actual person under investigation or suspected to have Ebola would be present in Louisville,” she said.
Nesbitt said people need to remember that Ebola is not an airborne virus.
“We also need to manage the expectations of our community and our country who are becoming anxious about a condition that is not easily transmitted as some other infectious diseases and we need to make sure people have adequate information to act appropriately.”
She said Ebola has always been a reportable condition to state and local health departments and stressed that the virus is not a new condition.
The Kentucky Department of Public Health recently created and released a table-top exercise—a theoretical test of the ability to respond to a situation—that includes roles for hospitals, EMS providers and other medical personnel for any emerging infectious disease, specifically Ebola.
“We are also approaching influenza season, so we need to balance this need to recognize that there are health conditions in our community that can cause similar symptoms and we need to triage patients appropriately,” Dr. Nesbitt said.
Doug Hamilton, chief of public services for Louisville, said the city regularly receive information about decontamination and treatment from the Kentucky Hospital Association.
“Currently we’re working with the National Disaster Medical System on which hospitals are going to be receipt hospitals here in Jefferson County and what their preparation needs to be,” Hamilton said.
To date, 3,357 people in West Africa have died from the virus, according to the CDC. Thomas R. Duncan, the Liberian man who flew to Dallas to reunite with his family, on Wednesday became the first person to die from the virus in the United States.
The CDC and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection will begin new layers of screening at JFK International Airport, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of reported Ebola cases.