Ebola has been forefront in the media for several weeks and will most likely continue to cause a flurry of news activity through the new year. Media reporting can be quite accurate, but sometimes the manner in which information is presented coupled with the unknowns of a situation, worry and fear can grow among residents. Quinnipiack Valley Health District, the local health department for Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge, wants you to know that our staff is working closely with the CT State Health Department and will perform any actions necessary to safeguard our community. You can get credible and reliable information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), www.cdc.gov and from the CT Department of Public Health (www.ct.gov/dph) Myths and rumors about Ebola will not help us to stay protected. A calm, knowledgeable approach will work best to protect the community.
At the time of this writing (October 24, 2014) there are several things we know: (Note: information may change rapidly. QVHD will post changes that affect our district on the QVHD website.)
- You do not get Ebola from the air, water or food. You get Ebola from direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes (like your eyes, nose or mouth) if you have contact with body fluids from a person who is actively ill with symptoms of Ebola. If a person does not have symptoms, they cannot spread the virus. Body fluids include, but are not limited to, blood, urine, feces, saliva, breast milk, vomit, sweat and semen.
- Travelers returning from an affected area will now be required to enter the United States through one of five major airports where they will be screened and given an Ebola care kit. (The airports are JFK, Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.) However, if you learn about a traveler from an affected region who did not come through one of these airports and resides in one of the district towns (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven or Woodbridge), please notify QVHD. The chances of this occurring are slim.
- At this time Connecticut will be requiring all symptom-free travelers from an affected area to remain at home for 21 days during the incubation period (2-21 days with an average of 8-10 days.) The process of notification of such an individual will go from airport screening to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to the CT Department of Health (CT DPH). Should such a traveler reside (or be visiting) one of our district towns, QVHD will be notified by the CT DPH. QVHD will be responsible for the monitoring of the asymptomatic traveler with temperatures twice a day.
- Upon airport screening, travelers with symptoms will be immediately isolated and referred for medical care.
- Should a traveler or person who cared for an Ebola patient return to one of the district towns, QVHD will be responsible for monitoring their quarantine. This means that the person will remain in their home for 21 days following their last exposure and will be actively monitored for early signs of infection. You should note that others in the household with the quarantined individual who did not have an exposure to Ebola will be free to go to work or to school. Remember, the science of Ebola has shown that you can only get Ebola from someone with an active infection (persons showing signs of illness).
- If a quarantined person should become ill, they will immediately be isolated and hospitalized. The non-quarantined family/friends who were with this person when they became ill will then be quarantined and actively monitored.
- The family and friend contacts of the patient who died in Texas have been released from their 21 day confinement period. None of those who lived with this patient have developed the disease. This is comforting news that should help ease fears about Ebola’s transmission.
- With the precautions taken for travelers from affected areas (noted above) who are ill or who are not ill, it is not likely that a person ill with Ebola will appear at the office or in school.
- Due to Ebola outbreaks, there are currently CDC Travel Warning Level 3 for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, that states to avoid non-essential travel to those areas. There is a Level 2 Alert, “Practice Enhanced Precautions” due to Ebola for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a Level 3 Alert, “Practice Usual Precautions” for Nigeria. Visit cdc.gov/travel for updated information on travel to any country.
Actions you can take to prevent illness in your household:
- Get a flu shot for everyone 6 months and older.
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water. In the absence of soap and water, an alcohol-based hand gel can be used, however these products do not remove dirt.
- Avoid touching the nose, eyes and mouth with dirty hands.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. Dispose of tissues properly.
- Frequently disinfect common surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick and avoid visiting persons who are ill.
- See a health care provider if you have symptoms of an illness that is getting worse or experience difficulty breathing.
District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call QVHD, 203 248-4528 or submit a question or concern on line, www.qvhd.org.