EBOLA: Targeted quarantine now authorized if needed; ‘We want to be ready’

The governor has signed an order that gives the state public health commissioner the ability to effectively quarantine an individual or a group of individuals who may have been exposed to or infected with the Ebola virus.

The order by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is not being executed because a specific case has been identified, but rather as a precautionary and preparatory measure in the event that the state has either a confirmed infection or has confirmed that someone at risk of developing the infection is residing in the state.

“We are taking this action ... to ensure that we are prepared, in advance, to deal with any identified cases in which someone has been exposed to the virus or, worst case, infected,” Malloy said.

“Our state’s hospitals have been preparing for it, and public health officials from the state are working around the clock to monitor the situation.,” he said.

On Wednesday, the first individual known to have become diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil died in Dallas. Thomas Eric Duncan was a citizen of Liberia in West Africa who had traveled to Texas to visit with family members about two weeks before his death.

‘Essential to be prepared’

“Right now, we have no reason to think that anyone in the state is infected or at risk of infection,” Malloy said of Connecticut. “But it is essential to be prepared and we need to have the authorities in place that will allow us to move quickly to protect public health, if and when that becomes necessary. Signing this order will allow us to do that.”

By signing the order, the governor is declaring a public health emergency, which gives the Department of Public Health (DPH) commissioner the authority to quarantine and isolate individuals whom the commissioner reasonably believes has been exposed to the Ebola virus.

Without the declaration, there is no statewide ability to isolate or quarantine — instead, the authority rests with each individual local public health director.

‘A more coordinated approach’

“While local health officials are certainly on the front lines of this effort, at the ready to address any situation, having this order in place will allow us to have a more coordinated response in the event that someone in Connecticut either tests positive for Ebola or has been identified as someone who is at risk of developing it,” said DPH Commissioner Jewel Mullen.

“We have had numerous conversations with both local public health officials in the state and senior officials at the [federal] Center for Disease Control,” Mullen said. “We have no reason to believe that anyone in Connecticut is infected or at risk of infection, but if it does happen, we want to be ready.”