NEW CITY, NY — County Executive Ed Day and Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert Wednesday provided an update on Rockland’s Ebola preparedness efforts.
The County Department of Health is coordinating multiple efforts related to Ebola preparedness to increase the level of readiness for health care workers, hospitals, first responders and physicians to deal with any potential cases of the deadly virus in Rockland. To date, there have been no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola reported in Rockland County.
“We understand that our residents are concerned following the first case of Ebola in New York City,” said County Executive Day. “For the past several months, our Health Department has been closely monitoring the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and receiving guidance from the CDC. But, we’re doing much more. With cases now turning up close to home, our efforts to protect health and safety have moved far beyond what state and federal leaders recommend. In fact, health officials from cities and counties across the region are looking to Rockland for guidance and recommendations on critical issues such as isolation methods and quarantine protocols.”
Back on October 23 Day had lamented on his social media page “the lack of any cohesive plan of action from the federal government.” As such, earlier this month Rockland County had enforced a 21-day quarantine on a man who traveled to Liberia, even though federal authorities do not recommend it.
“By working closely with all our health care partners, we are helping to ensure Rockland County’s preparedness for any potential Ebola virus exposures,” said Dr. Ruppert. “It is by coordinating efforts throughout the health care system that Rockland will continue to maintain the health and safety of our residents.”
Consistent with guidelines set forth by New York State, Commissioner Ruppert and County Executive Day today issued the following outline of how Rockland will monitor the health of any individual returning to the county after traveling from one of the countries in West Africa affected by the Ebola outbreak:
Scenario 1: If a person arrives at Kennedy International Airport with symptoms of the Ebola virus, he or she will be medically transported (in protective gear), to one of the New York City hospitals designated by the State to treat Ebola patients for further evaluation and treatment.
Scenario 2: If a person arrives and had direct contact with people infected with the Ebola virus but is asymptomatic, he or she will be quarantined for 21 days. Under quarantine, County health officials will make daily checks on the individual as well as ensure that the individual is complying with the quarantine order. Family members would be allowed to stay with the person being quarantined. Friends may also be allowed to visit with the approval of the county health department.
Scenario 3: If a person arrives from one of the affected areas with no symptoms and had no direct contact with anyone infected with the Ebola virus, County health officials will oversee twice daily temperature checks and monitoring for other symptoms until the 21 day incubation period is over, but these individuals would not automatically be subject to quarantine.
Said Day, “The protocols we’ve outlined will ensure that Rockland County has the ability to take preventative action to protect public health, utilizing the latest information and the expertise of our Health Department. Our team of physicians and public health experts will stay ahead of the curve as Ebola guidelines and situations evolve.”
The current Ebola outbreak has been centered in a few countries in West Africa. The illness is not spread by air, water, casual contact or food in the United States. You can only contract Ebola from contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola, or from exposure to contaminated objects, such as needles.
County health officials say frequent hand washing will help reduce the chance of infection with this and other, more common viruses.
With flu season now officially underway, Dr. Ruppert is encouraging all residents to protect themselves by getting vaccinated. The CDC recommends a flu shot or nasal vaccine spray for all individuals older than six months of age.