State takes steps to prepare for possible Ebola case in the future

Although the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is very low, Connecticut health officials have been working to prepare should a case of Ebola be identified in Connecticut, according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Malloy spoke after being briefed on the Ebola situation by state Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday confirmed the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States in a person who had traveled to Texas from Liberia, in West Africa, where the virus is prevalent.

The patient did not have symptoms when leaving Liberia, but developed symptoms approximately four days after arriving Sept. 20 in the United States. He now is at a Dallas hospital.

‘Strong measures and practices in place’

“CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden reassured the public that by upholding strong healthcare infection control measures and public health practices, the U.S. can ‘stop Ebola in its tracks,’” Malloy said. “Our state health department has been working and communicating with federal and state partners to ensure those strong measures and practices are in place here in Connecticut.”

For the past several months, state Department of Public Health (DPH) staff have been closely monitoring the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and receiving guidance from the CDC.

The DPH has sent regular Ebola-related updates and guidance to medical professionals, local health directors, hospitals, and emergency medical services providers.

The role of hospitals to detect, respond

The DPH has asked Connecticut hospitals to ensure they can detect a patient with Ebola, protect healthcare workers so they can safely care for the patient, and respond in a coordinated fashion.

Hospitals have been asked to complete a detailed checklist for Ebola preparedness and return it to DPH later this month.

“Any acute care hospital in the state, by following well-defined, standard infection control measures and with the use of proper personal protection equipment, is capable of caring for an Ebola patient,” Mullen said. “We would not need to designate particular hospitals to care a patient who is infected.”

Emergency declaration requirements

In May, DPH reviewed state and local preparedness to address a biologic event with local public health officials from across the state. This review included the requirements for a public health emergency declaration, and what actions state and local agencies could take following such declaration.

“Based on everything presented on yesterday’s CDC briefing, I do not believe that the patient diagnosed in Texas puts Connecticut residents at higher risk,” Mullen said.

"We have expected that given the size of the West African epidemic, there would eventually be someone diagnosed in our country,” he said.