The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) is closely monitoring the Ebola situation in the U.S. and other countries.
The department is in continuous contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), county and municipal health departments across the state, hospital and medical associations, individual healthcare facilities, EMS providers, West African community leaders and other partners to ensure Ebola preparedness and response efforts are aligned and closely coordinated. The PADOH will support the investigation of any suspect cases and provide guidance and information on infection control protocols and procedures to ensure the health and safety of all healthcare workers, patients, visitors and the general public.
Additionally, PADOH continues to share important information and CDC advisories and alerts to healthcare professionals to heighten awareness of possible cases, request reporting of any suspect cases, reinforce the importance of asking patients for their travel history and reiterate infection control procedures.
The Ebola Outbreak
Where has Ebola been reported?
Ebola viruses are found in several African countries. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa. The natural reservoir host of Ebola virus remains unknown. However, on the basis of evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is animal-borne and that bats are the most likely reservoir. Four of the five virus strains occur in an animal host native to Africa. West Africa is currently experiencing history’s largest outbreak of the disease in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
On September 30, 2014, the United States confirmed its first case of Ebola in a person who had traveled to Dallas, Texas from Liberia. Referred to as the “index patient”, the individual did not have symptoms when leaving West Africa, but developed symptoms approximately four days after arriving in the U.S. and subsequently died from the illness.
Two healthcare workers who cared for the index patient recently tested positive for Ebola. The CDC and public health officials in Texas are identifying people who had close personal contact with the healthcare workers.
Ebola can ONLY be spread by directly touching an infected person or animal’s skin, blood or body fluids – you cannot get the virus simply by being near someone who is infected.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other states, and a multitude of public health partners throughout the commonwealth to prepare for Ebola and protect the health of Pennsylvanians.
How can I protect myself against Ebola?
If you are in or plan to travel to any of the West African countries (i.e. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea) affected by the Ebola outbreak, you can protect yourself by doing the following:
• Washing hands frequently
• Avoiding contact with anyone’s blood and body fluids – particularly someone who is sick
• Avoiding West African hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated
• Not handling items that may contain an infected person’s blood or body fluids
• Not touching the body of someone who has died from Ebola
• Not touching bats, monkeys, gorillas or chimpanzees or their blood and fluids
• Not eating “bushmeat” (wild animals that are hunted for food)
• Seeking medical care immediately if you develop Ebola symptoms
What should I do if I think I might have Ebola?
The only people at risk in the current outbreak are those who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone in the past three weeks and might have had direct contact with a person showing symptoms or an animal infected with Ebola.
If you recently traveled from one of the affected African countries and develop fever and/or other Ebola related symptoms within three weeks after leaving that country, limit your contact with other people, seek medical care right away, and tell your doctor about your recent travel. Make sure you call the doctor’s office or emergency room before going and tell them about your recent travel and symptoms so that arrangements can be made, if needed, to prevent others from becoming sick.
How will the Department of Health be monitoring individuals who are flying into the five designated airports in the U.S. and whose final destination is Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is one of six states that have been directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to actively monitor all travelers from the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone who arrive at five designated airports in the U.S. and then travel into the commonwealth. Designated airports are JFK (New York City); Newark Liberty (New Jersey); Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson (Georgia); Dulles (Virginia); and O'Hare (Illinois).
Upon arrival at the designated airports, travelers from the four West African countries will be screened by federal agents/officials.
If travelers do not have or report any symptoms, have no measured fever and have been determined to have an "uncertain exposure risk" - meaning they don't know if they were exposed to Ebola or does not acknowledge any exposure - they will be allowed to continue their journey, as long as they follow-up with public health authorities and are monitored for 21 days. Federal officials will provide the traveler's key information to relevant state health departments.
Travelers will be given a "CARE" (Check and Report Ebola) kit which includes a fact sheet and instructions to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of Ebola, a temperature and symptoms log, a thermometer, and a contact sheet with the 24/7 phone numbers of state health departments.
Pennsylvania has 67 counties:
- Travelers who stay in counties that have local health departments will be monitored on the local level.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Health will monitor travelers staying in counties that do not have local health departments.
- Travelers will be monitored daily for 21 days after their arrival to the U.S. The method - whether by phone, Skype, or in-person - will be determined by the health department during the monitoring.
- Passengers will use a "Passenger Symptom Follow-Up Diary" to track the following types of information twice daily and report to the health department:
- Temperature (taken at two different times per day)
- Other symptoms like:
Joint or muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea (and the number of times per day)
- Unexplained bleeding
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
- Other symptoms
- Travelers will also be asked daily if they have plans to travel anywhere within the 21-day monitoring period. This will ensure health officials can check in with travelers.
If the individuals have no known potential exposures to Ebola, they will not be given any travel restrictions.
If individuals had possible exposures to Ebola, their travel will be restricted and they will be instructed not to use commercial travel methods (planes, buses, trains, etc.).
CDC is providing a list of the travelers whose final destination is Pennsylvania, as well as any relevant information and contact information.
The department will be posting statewide numbers concerning those we are additionally monitoring under these new protocols to this page.
As of Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 at 2 p.m., the approximate number of individuals being monitored in Pennsylvania, per the above guidelines, is seven. Please understand that these numbers are changing regularly based on CDC updates. The department continues to learn and adjust based on information we are receiving concerning Ebola from CDC, other states and public health partners.
Additional Information and Materials
*For additional information and materials, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website at www.cdc.gov