On multiple occasions this week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices regarding the latest developments with the spread of the Ebola virus, new U.S. government efforts to implement additional protective measures at ports of entry and an announcement of the first confirmed Ebola diagnosis in New York City.
EBOLA ARRIVES IN NEW YORK CITY
On Thursday afternoon AlertsUSA subscribers were some of the first in the nation to learn of a possible Ebola case in NYC following an announcement by health authorities that a patient was being treated at Bellevue Hospital who met the formal symptom and travel profile including fever, gastrointestinal issues and recent travel from an affected nation. According to the early announcement by the NY Department of Health, disease detectives immediately began contact tracing in an effort to identify anyone who may be at potential risk.
While health authorities declined to say how many people may have come into contact with Dr. Craig Spencer, on Wednesday alone he is reported to have used at least one taxi, one train, visited a bowling alley and jogged several miles. His subway ride occurred just hours before his diagnosis.
Readers should note that the Centers for Disease Control announced that Dr. Spencer had successfully passed "through multiple layers of screening and did not have a fever or other symptoms of illness" when he arrived at JFK airport from Brussels. While the doctor did ultimately contact authorities once a fever began to manifest, he is the latest clear example of how easy it is for the virus to be transported via airline travel to the United States and how the current multi-layer approach of exit and entry screening of airline passengers only catches the low-hanging fruit.
FEVER IS NOT A DEFINITIVE INDICATOR
While U.S. health authorities continue to emphasize fever is a reliable sign of infection, research published last month by the World Health Organization in the New England Journal of Medicine tells a slightly different story. Within the WHO study, data was analyzed on 3,343 confirmed and 667 probable cases of Ebola. Of these "confirmed and probable" cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and elsewhere, 12.9% did not exhibit fever.
MANDATORY EBOLA QUARANTINES IN NY AND NJ
As a result of the incident with Dr. Craig, late Friday, the Governors of New York and New Jersey announced their respective States will automatically quarantine for 21 days all medical workers and anyone else who has direct contact with infected individuals who is returning from Ebola-hit West African countries.
According to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo" "It's too serious a situation to leave it to the honor system of compliance,"
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EBOLA RESEARCHERS SOUND WARNING
Readers are cautioned with all seriousness that regardless of what elected officials and public health figureheads say to downplay the threat of Ebola here in America, the world's top research scientists dealing with Ebola tell a different story entirely.
Just last week, one of the world's top authorities on Ebola, Dr. Peter Jahrling, Chief Scientist of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, stated that he believes the current Ebola outbreak may be caused by an infection that spreads more easily than it did before.
"I have a field team in Monrovia. They are running tests. They are telling me that viral loads are coming up very quickly and are really high, higher than they are used to seeing. 'It may be that the virus burns hotter and quicker. If this is the case we are dealing with a very different bug."
Two weeks ago Michael Osterholm, the Director of CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy), a prominent public health scientist and a nationally recognized biosecurity expert, delivered a presentation at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health during which he revealed that one of the world's preeminent Ebola researchers, has found that the current strain of Ebola appears to be much worse than any strain seen before.
Osterholm on Ebola (at 20:17 in):
"Today I’ve been given permission to share something I’ve known about for a few weeks that has concerned me greatly. Gary Kobinger and colleagues at Winnipeg Canadian National lab actually took one of the strains from Guinea and put it into Macaques a little over a month and a half ago. What they saw was remarkable. It was unlike any of the Ebola viruses they’ve seen in monkeys. It was much, much more severe; the pathology in the lungs was remarkable. And as Gary said, [and he] is one of the most prominent Ebola virologists in the world, ‘It is very worrisome to me... about what I saw there.’
PENTAGON FORMS EBOLA STRIKE TEAM(S)
In response to a request by the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered the formation of at least one 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States.
The team will consist of 20 critical care nurses, 5 doctors trained in infectious disease, and 5 trainers in infectious disease protocols to train local healthcare workers.
Upon conclusion of training, team members will remain in a "prepare to deploy" status for 30 days, available to be sent to other CONUS locations as required. They will not be sent to West Africa or elsewhere overseas and will be called upon domestically only if deemed prudent by our public health professionals.
NEW CDC GUIDANCE ON PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is tightening previous infection control guidance for healthcare workers caring for patients with Ebola, to ensure there is no ambiguity. The guidance focuses on specific personal protective equipment (PPE) healthcare workers should use and offers detailed step by step instructions for how to put the equipment on and take it off safely.
AlertsUSA has established an Ebola preparedness website offing specific guidance and information on how to prepare for and respond to a domestic outbreak of Ebola. http://www.EbolaReady.com .
Many of the preparedness suggestions on this page reflect common sense. Others will come across as cold and severe until it is remembered that Ebola is a highly infectious and deadly pathogen. More than half of those who become infected die and that death is particularly gruesome.
In addition, we make product suggestions on the site with links to a multitude of suppliers via Amazon as they are convenient and inexpensive compared to most retail outlets. That said, if you can find these products elsewhere at a better price, grab t. The links are there for your convenience.
For 12 of the past 13 weeks, AlertsUSA and Threat Journal have been warning of the progression of the West Africa Ebola outbreak and the danger posed to the continental United States (See 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12). A wealth of information is available within those past issues.
As always, AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor developments with the spread of this virus and will immediately notify service subscribers of major changes in its spread to different regions, important notices and warnings by government agencies or any other major changes in the overall threat environment as events warrant