Saturday, October 25, 2014
Bucks health officials to monitor 3 travelers from Ebola-stricken countries
Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014
The Bucks County Health Department has begun new, closer monitoring of individuals entering the United States from countries where the frequently fatal Ebola virus is rampant, under new enhanced CDC screening protocols.
On Wednesday, Bucks County health officials were notified that three individuals told state health officials that they’ll be staying in the county for the next 21 days, the incubation period for the virus, the health department director, Dr. David Damsker, said. The location of the individuals was not released.
The health department received the visitors’ names, phone numbers and addresses where they’ll be staying, Damsker said. The individuals arrived in the United States within the last few days, he said.
County health workers will keep track of the daily body temperatures of the individuals and their overall health, Damsker said. If the county is unable to make contact with someone, it will follow up with the state.
“It’s a proactive step. At least we’ll know who they are and where they are going to be,” Damsker added. “Next to a travel ban knowing who these people are and where they are is the next best thing.”
Pennsylvania is one of six states that will monitor travelers whose flights originated in Sierra Leone, Liberia or New Guinea. The others are New York, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia, which together account for 70 percent of people arriving from those West African countries, state health officials said.
Pennsylvania airports have no direct flights to the three African countries, but it’s close to New York, New Jersey and the Washington, D.C., airports, where all flights from Ebola-affected nations are now diverted; O’Hare International in Chicago is also on that flight diversion list.
At those five airports, travelers who list Pennsylvania as a final destination will have their information forwarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. State health officials will use travel records to determine which passengers should be monitored, according to a health department spokeswoman.
Travelers will be given information cards and a thermometer to measure their body temperatures twice a day for the virus’ incubation period under the monitoring protocol, the CDC said.
State and local health departments will determine how people in the monitoring program report their results daily, but there are plans to implement a 24-hour hotline and maintain daily communication with travelers.
Low-risk travelers will be required to report their temperature twice per day to the state health department and higher risk individuals who may have had prolonged contact with individuals infected with Ebola will be quarantined by the state. Anyone with a fever or other Ebola symptoms upon arrival will be immediately isolated.
About 150 people each day come into the United States from West African countries with Ebola outbreaks; most are American citizens or people with long-term U.S. residence.