COUNTY PRESS RELEASE
County Executive Ed Day and Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert Wednesday offered details of Rockand’s robust level of preparedness regarding the potential risk of Ebola. While there are no suspected or confirmed cases of the deadly virus in Rockland County, local, state and federal health officials are working closely and proactively to ensure the safety of the public in the event of such an incident.
“Since September, we have been working cooperatively with the CDC, the state Department of Health, our local hospitals and emergency responders to ensure that our level of preparedness remains at the highest level,” said Dr. Ruppert. “Our early focus on response, diagnosis, treatment and containment has become a model for health experts across the region. We will continue to share information, review policies and protocols and make changes or additions as we learn more about Ebola.”
“Rockland County is ready,” said County Executive Day. “Our capable health officials were drafting Ebola response plans before the illness was thrust into the national spotlight. Dr. Ruppert and her team have made sure the County protects the general public and our first responders in the unlikely event that someone in Rockland contracts the Ebola virus.”
The County’s initial areas of focus include: new screening procedures for 911 calls to Sheriff’s Communications dispatchers, first responder preparedness, the transport of potentially infected patients and decontamination and waste disposal.
Rockland County 911 operators are now questioning callers seeking medical help on the presence or absence of Ebola symptoms and whether they have risk factors, such as recent travel to areas affected by Ebola.
If symptoms AND risk factors are present, operators will immediately inform the responding EMS personnel that the patient is a suspected Ebola case. Recommended wording to advise crews is “Patient requires strict personal protective equipment (PPE) precautions.”
First Responder Preparedness:
The Rockland County Health Department is developing Ebola Response Teams that can be deployed to any call for help in which a case of Ebola is suspected. Even though vigilance is nothing new for paramedics, specially trained EMS teams will ensure the timely and safe transport of potential patients with Ebola, while protecting their personal health. EMS workers will be educated on the latest protocols for identification, isolation and medical evaluation of patients requiring care, with extensive training in the practice of donning and removing personal protective equipment. As part of the plan, the Ebola Response Team will use a dedicated ambulance for the transport of any suspected patient.
- Nyack Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital have implemented consistent screening, patient care and isolation measures
- Protective equipment is currently being issued to personnel and facilities that might be needed to treat an Ebola patient
- All Rockland County police agencies have received information and instructions for handling potential patients
- The Rockland County Department of Health has issued instructions to all local physicians and healthcare personnel about the safe use and handling of protective equipment and lab specimens
“While we are at a heightened awareness, there are no cases of infection with the Ebola virus in this area,” said Dr. Ruppert. “We are focused on ensuring that we have done everything we can to protect the public should we see a suspected or confirmed case of the virus here.”
The CDC and local health officials believe the risk of Ebola spreading widely in the United States is low. Ebola is spread through direct contact with body fluids from a person who has symptomatic Ebola virus disease. For more detailed information about the disease, visit the CDC website, www.cdc.gov.
“With all of the recent attention to Ebola, it is important to be mindful of the upcoming flu and pneumonia season. All residents are urged to get a flu shot and those over 65 should get a one-time pneumonia vaccination,” added Dr. Ruppert.
County health officials say frequent hand washing will help reduce the chance of infection with this and other, more common viruses.
Said Dr. Ruppert, “Right now the fear of Ebola is greater than the threat it poses in Rockland County. We are educating our first responders and readying equipment. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to go about living their daily lives and take the same kind of precautions you would use to prevent catching any type of illness.”
County health officials confirm a Rockland resident has completed 21 days of isolation at home without developing Ebola following low-risk exposure to the virus while traveling in Liberia. No additional information will be released on this specific matter.