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An education on ebola

By Staff | Nov 14, 2014

Shepherdstown and Jefferson county are not immune to the social concern over the Ebola virus. County emergency management officials are aware that the risk has more than one side to it. Berkeley County schools asked an elementary teacher to stay home for twenty one days after she recently returned from Kenya, Africa. “You are closer to Ebola in West Virginia than she will be in Kenya.” The teacher’s supporters wrote in a statement to the school system. The teacher presented no symptoms at any time.

However the director of the Jefferson County Health Department, David Didden says while the absolute risk of catching the Ebola virus is low, meaning only one person in the nation has died from the disease, the perceived risk is quite high.

“The observation of the event is just as important as the event. For our community, it is about the response,” he said.

This is why public officials across Jefferson County met this week for a round-table discussion on how best to protect the residents. Attending the discussion – fire/rescue, hospitals, the public health department, and others – they agreed to order more treatment equipment and protective suits for first responders and implement more training. The county will also create a quick response team ready to act should the need arise.

Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency Deputy Director, Ed Hannon said they are prepared from the moment someone contacts them. “911 operators have a new protocol to screen callers. The only difference in symptoms between Ebola and the flu is interaction with others who could have the virus.” So this winter, if someone calls 911 with fever, aches, chills, nausea, and headaches, the operator will ask them a number of questions about their recent history.

Interaction is not how the virus spreads. Hannon reminded that it takes the mixing of bodily fluid or “body surface contact, like a cut.”

“Our area is pretty removed from the risk, but the National Conservation Training Center, the Border Protection, Summit Point Raceway and Hollywood Casino all bring people in from all over.” Hannon said. He also qualified that statement by adding that most agencies who send people to places like the NCTC will screen their people before they come.

In the case that any infectious disease, should show in the county Jefferson Medical Center in Ranson has two isolation rooms ready. The patient would be held there until a full diagnosis is confirmed.

WVU Healthcare Spokesperson, Teresa McCabe said, “Our hospitals in the Eastern Panhandle are prepared and practicing. It’s a slim possibility that someone presents with Ebola, but we are screening and prepared.”

Didden gave his remarks to a luncheon held by the county’s office of Homeland Security this week. Gathered at the tables, members of the American Red Cross, the Sheriff’s Office, the Planning Commission, Boarder Protection and local businesses listened as Didden explained several global health concerns including Ebola and it’s status.

Patient numbers for this virus are trending downward according to the World Health Organization, Didden added, “Meaning the worst could be over. It’s hard to tell if the numbers will swing back up.”

He explained that chronic diseases that deteriorate over time like cancer and heart disease are much easier to get. He suggested that perhaps social energy would be better spent preventing the three thousand teen deaths every year (nationwide) due to texting and driving.

Hannon says Ebola concerns are a great way to emphasis the need for frequent hand washing, as we enter winter’s season of common sickness.

For easy facts about the Ebola Virus go to cdc.gov/ebola.