TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has a plan for dealing with Ebola, state health officials told lawmakers while downplaying the risk the deadly disease poses to the public.
Officials at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment began working with local health departments, the medical community and numerous other groups in August, more than a month before the first Ebola case in the United States was reported, state epidemiologist Charlie Hunt said last week during a briefing to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on KansasSecurity. He said the goal of the meetings was to develop a plan for how to respond if a case actually occurs in Kansas, The Lawrence Journal-World reports.
Hunt said the plan calls for voluntary 21-day isolation and restriction of movement for people at risk of being exposed while they undergo daily monitoring. The plan does not call for mandatory isolation or quarantines, although state law does give local health departments and the secretary of KDHE authority to take those measures if they determine it’s necessary.
Other elements of the plan include procedures for disposing of medical waste from Ebola patients as well as protocols for transporting patients infected with the disease.
The biggest risk, Hunt said, is from people returning to the United States from one of the countries in West Africa where a severe outbreak has erupted. There is also a smaller risk from any health care workers who have treated Ebola patients.
He said the virus is mainly transmitted through bodily fluids, so the people at risk are only those who have had close bodily contact with Ebola victims.
So far, four cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in the U.S. The first occurred Sept. 30 in Dallas when Thomas Eric Duncan, who had recently been in east Africa, developed symptoms after he arrived in Texas. He later died of the disease.
Two health care workers who treated Duncan, as well as a doctor who had treated victims in Africa, also contracted the disease, but they have recovered.
“The level of anxiety is perhaps not matched by the actual level of risk,” Hunt said. “The reality is that there’s not a lot of risk to the general public.”
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