Boston Ebola preparations continue despite low-risk of local outbreak

Massachusetts General Hospital mgh boston
Massachusetts General Hospital.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO

A Boston Ebola outbreak is unlikely, according to local health officials, but that won’t stop them from being prepared.

Boston public health and medical officials met Wednesday to discuss plans they are taking to protect and educate the public if a suspected case is identified in the city.

“While the risk to our residents is very low, it is always better to prepare so that we can appropriately identify and care for suspect cases and work with the community to prevent further illness,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “We want a well-coordinated plan in place in the event a case of [Ebola] is found in the city.”

The Ebola virus is a serious illness that is spread when a person comes in contact with the body fluids like blood, urine, stool, saliva, sweat, semen or breast milk of an infected person. The virus is not spread through the air or through water, but can be spread through direct contact with Ebola infected animals.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Boston public health leaders and emergency medical officials described plans to:

-Monitor for and detect suspect cases early so that response measures can be implemented;

-Partner with hospitals, EMS and other key federal, and state agencies to care for patients and protect health care staff, and;

-Perform outreach and education in the community to raise awareness about EVD, its causes and how to prevent transmission.

“We know that an important step in preventing the spread of infectious disease is identifying when the illness is in our community,” said Dr. Anita Barry, director of Infectious Disease Bureau at BPHC. “We will rely on our tried and true methods of disease surveillance, and our strong partnership with health care facilities and other agencies throughout Boston to assure a heightened state of watchfulness for [Ebola].”

Because the identification, treatment, and containment of most infectious diseases cases usually begins with an alert, well-informed health care professional, Dr. Barry said the Commission has shared advisories and guidance for healthcare providers on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the illness, and how to report suspect cases to public health authorities.

In good hands

For years the city’s public health, hospitals, EMS and other agencies have prepared for and practiced what to do in response to a wide variety of emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks.

“As a result of years of practice, investment and responding to real emergencies, hospitals in Boston are well equipped and trained to appropriately and safely care for a suspect case of EVD,” said John Erwin, executive director of the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals. “To ensure the best possible preparations, however, hospitals will need the support of city, state and federal health officials. That’s why this planning effort is so important.

Boston EMS, the city’s EMS provider, is also making preparations in the event a case of Ebola is discovered in the city. EMS officials said its personnel are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of hemorrhagic diseases like Ebola, and that each ambulance is stocked with equipment to protect patients and EMS staff.

“Through both training and experience, our EMTs and paramedics are well-prepared to safely care for and transport patients with infectious diseases,” said Jim Hooley, Chief of Boston EMS. “Our planning will ensure the highest level of precautions in the event that a suspect case of EVD needs to be transported for care.”

Informing the Public

In addition to disease surveillance and response planning activities, health officials are also stepping up public education efforts on Ebola. The BPHC has posted a factsheet, translated in French for residents on its website, bphc.org/ebola and is also working closely with groups that serve the needs of the West African immigrant community in Boston.

“Every successful preparedness campaign requires the support and strong involvement of the community,” said Atyia Martin, director of the BPHC Public Health Preparedness Program. “We will work hard to make sure that residents have the information and resources that they need to stay informed and healthy. That is what this effort is all about.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Hurricane Odile batters Mexico's Baja resorts, sparks looting

Hurricane Odile injured dozens of people, forced the evacuation of thousands and smashed shops open to looters in the popular tourist area of Baja, Mexico.

National

Apple iPhone 6 pre-orders hit record 4 million…

By Lehar Maan(Reuters) - Apple Inc said many customers will need to wait until next month for their new iPhones after a record 4 million…

National

LAPD investigates complaint from detained 'Django' actress

The LAPD is investigating after "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts accused police of violating her rights when they detained her.

Local

Number of New York City smokers increase, topping…

For the first time since 2007, there are  more than one million smokers in New York City, according to the New York City Department of…

Movies

Newsflash: Corey Stoll is still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…

Movies

If you don't like Simon Pegg's new film,…

Simon Pegg goes all out in "Hector and the Search for Happiness" as the titular psychiatrist stymied by modern life who embarks on a globetrotting…

Arts

Art in Chelsea: Don't miss these 3 galleries

We selected three sure bets for seeing cool art in the galleries of Chelsea.

Music

Robin Thicke blurs lines further with new 'Blurred…

"The reality is," said Robin Thicke about "Blurred Lines" in a court deposition, "Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song."

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

NFL

3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.

NFL

Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…

Travel

World's most hipster cities: Top 5

Travel blogger Adam Groffman tells us his picks for the Top 5 most hipster cities in the world.

Education

The top 5 regrets recent high school grads…

College application season can seem like a blur for many students - as test prep, campus visits and filling out a seemingly endless stream of…

Parenting

Tech execs tend to limit their kids' screen…

You probably got your iPad before Bill Gates's kids did.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing: Daybreaker returns, Ray Rice jersey trade, Sweet…

  Now that Ray Rice is no longer with the Baltimore Ravens — or any other NFL team — after video footage surfaced showing him…