Board of Health monitors Ebola protocols, threat

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By Tia Lynn Lecorchick managing editor

The Morgan County Board of Health (BOH) was briefed on the latest developments in the Ebola epidemic spreading across West Africa, the implications of Ebola for the United States, and precautionary protocols healthcare facilities are adopting in the unlikely event that an Ebola case should arise. Dr. Claude Burnett, director of the Northeast Health District, reported to the BOH that while Ebola is alarmingly spreading throughout three countries in West Africa, there is no threat to United States. “It’s very hard to catch,” said Burnett, who pointed out that there have only been nine cases of Ebola in the United States, with only one victim of the disease dying from it. None of the nine cases have resulted in a secondary transmission. There have been no cases of Ebola reported in Georgia. “The biggest challenge to the world is that the epidemic there in Africa stops,” said Burnett “We need more healthcare providers and education to help stop the spread. We all need to worry about Ebola internationally, but in this country, we do not need to worry about it.” Burnett also informed the BOH that there are currently at least seven vaccines being developed and tested for Ebola. Leah Ainslie, nurse practitioner, reported to the board that Morgan Memorial Hospital has designated and isolated a room for quarantine should a case of Ebola come about in Morgan County. “We have all the latest information and written procedures to follow should we ever see a case,” assured Ainslie. One of the first protocols is to determine if a patient has been to one of the three West African countries with the Ebola outbreak or has been in close contact with someone who has travelled there. If the answer is yes, and that patient is exhibiting symptoms, such as a fever, they will be quarantined and treated from there. “As everything is evolving, we are getting the most up-to-date information,” said Ainslie. Minnie Peek, BOH member, asked about the protocol for students who show up at school with a fever. Burnett reminded her that it is very unlikely that children with a fever would have Ebola, unless they, or someone close to them, have recently visited West Africa. “First you think of horses, not zebras, when you hear hooves,” said Burnett. “It is much more likely that a child would have the flu than Ebola.” Mayor Fred Perriman asked if Burnett believes the media has stirred the public up into a panic over Ebola when in actuality, there is a very low-risk of contracting Ebola here in the United States. Burnett said most of the media he has watched has been on par with delivering the solid facts, but thinks the public hysteria is the result of being unfamiliar with Ebola in general. “It’s ok when you hear about something you are used to dying of,” joked Burnett. “But people get much more nervous about something new, something they are not familiar with. People worry more.”

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