Ulster County Executive Mike Hein And Ulster County Commissioner Of Health And Mental Health Dr. Carol Smith Highlight The County's Preparedness And Provide Information Regarding Ebola And Enterovirus

Posted October 20, 2014

Kingston, NY - In response to concerns expressed by area residents regarding the Ebola and Enterovirus outbreaks that have occurred worldwide and here in the United States, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health, Dr. Carol Smith, are providing public information relative to Ebola and Enterovirus, as well as discussing the continued coordination among County agencies and key healthcare professionals. In order to prepare, the Ulster County Department of Health has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control, the New York State Department of Health, health departments across the Hudson Valley as well as local medical providers.

“At moments like this there are many members of our community understandably concerned with the dangers associated with viruses such as Ebola and Enterovirus,” said County Executive Mike Hein. “As our health professionals work to prepare and protect our community, one of the most important tools is information, and so, attached is a thorough assessment of relative risks, resources and information. Dr. Smith has also worked in conjunction with Dr. Tack, Chairman of the Ulster County Board of Health, and other infectious disease specialists to provide our first responders with the most up to date information.”

“Certainly, whenever and wherever a serious disease outbreak occurs it is a cause for concern, however, it is also a time to assess the facts, relative risk levels and available resources to cope with any eventuality,” began Dr. Carol Smith, Ulster County Commissioner of Health and Mental Health.

“With respect to the recent Enterovirus outbreak, commonly known as EV-D68, it is important to note that there are 10-15 million cases of Enterovirus diagnosed each year in the United States and the overwhelming majority of patients recover after a few days of symptoms, which are similar to those of the flu or a bad cold. Those who are most at risk are infants, children and teenagers, especially those who are immune-compromised or have asthma or other respiratory conditions.

“As is the case with many communicable diseases, the public plays an important role in preventing the spread of disease by exercising common sense precautions, such as washing hands frequently; avoiding touching eyes, mouth or noses with unwashed hands; refraining from close contact with sick people; disinfection of frequently touched surfaces; keeping those who are sick at home and seeking immediate medical attention when symptoms persist.

“Ebola is obviously a much more serious disease that warrants much closer vigilance and attention. To date, several cases have been identified in the United States and those individuals, along with everyone they may have come into contact with, are being treated in isolation or are being monitored for potential symptoms. The Ulster County Department of Health has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control, the New York State Department of Health, as well as other local health departments in the Hudson Valley region, to actively monitor developments. Fortunately, at this time, no cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in New York State and Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced New York State’s preparedness plan which designates eight hospitals across the State as treatment centers. All healthcare providers in the United States, including our local providers, are following guidance and protocols with respect to identifying and reporting symptoms, especially those of patients who may have traveled to West Africa, which is “ground zero” for the current Ebola epidemic,” noted Dr. Smith.

“It is very important to note that Ebola is transmitted by contact with an infected person’s body fluids. Therefore, if symptoms are noted, which include: fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite and abnormal bleeding, especially in anyone who may have recently traveled from West Africa, it is extremely important to get that person immediate medical attention and to avoid direct contact with the blood or body fluids of that person. Medical care caregivers are reminded to use universal precautions when coming in contact with potentially infectious materials.

“Again, the public has an extremely important role to play in preventing the spread of EV-D68, Ebola and all communicable diseases by being aware of and on the look-out for symptoms, exercising common sense preventative measures– and seeking immediate medical attention whenever a serious illness is suspected. While we can’t completely avoid illness or disease outbreaks, we can work together to minimize them and protect our families and community,” concluded Dr. Smith.

The County’s 911 emergency dispatch center has also monitored the situation closely and is part of the coordination among agencies, as Director Steven Peterson notes, “The Ulster County 911 Center will implement a screening protocol for the 911 call taking process. When indicated we will ask callers additional questions as recommended by the CDC and Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO). Based on the answers to those questions, the 911 center will advise ALL responding units to take Body Substance Isolation or BSI precautions."

See Attachments: Ebola Fact Sheet & Enterovirus Fact Sheet