The Ocean County Health Department says they are taking a proactive approach in making certain that precautions are being taken concerning Ebola. There have been no reported cases in Ocean County or New Jersey.
Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, Liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health (OCHD), stated, “The Ocean County Health Department is continuing to do aggressive outreach to the community regarding Ebola and this evolving public health challenge. The OCHD is committed to doing everything possible to protect public health and safety in Ocean County.”
Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator, discussed many of the steps that the OCHD has taken and will continue to take:
•The OCHD has participated in numerous conference calls with the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
•Staff from the Communicable Disease Unit has been in constant communication with many partners including but not limited to the healthcare community, hospitals, schools and the Office of Emergency Management.
•A conference call with all area hospital infection control practitioners (ICP) is scheduled to take place in the near future.
•A letter outlining steps taken is being mailed to all municipal mayors.
•The OCHD has been communicating with Ocean County Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services regarding protocol for a suspect or confirmed case of Ebola.
•The OCHD sent out information on Ebola and Enterovirus D-68 to all school superintendents in Ocean County.
•The OCHD presented at the September Ocean County Superintendent’s Roundtable on emerging infectious diseases.
•The OCHD is presenting to the Ocean County School Nurse meeting tonight.
•Updates are made on the OCHD website daily. Tweets and Facebook are also updated daily.
•OCHD continues to offer programs and information on Ebola.
•Several OCHD staff members are recipients of the CDC’s Health Alert Network. The OCHD will ensure all appropriate staff are linked to this system.
“Besides all of the above, the OCHD has the ability to provide contact tracing of contacts of a person with a suspect or confirmed case of Ebola,” said Regenye. The OCHD also has door hangers which can be custom printed quickly and used to provide information door-to-door. The OCHD has conducted this approach successfully in the past for rabies and tuberculosis control.”
Regenye continued, “The OCHD has a contract with Berkeley Hazmat as a first responder team which provides chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) training and response. These responders would be able to assist with a biological issue of concern, such as Ebola.”
Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, has been in constant communication with Regenye regarding the situation and is working with him and Freeholder Little to ensure the health and safety of our residents. Vicari said, “Ocean County will always do everything it can proactively to be prepared for emergencies. It is important that we stay ahead of this and have all emergency preparations and measures in place.”
Jennifer Crawford, OCHD Supervisor of Communicable Disease, said, “It is important that a suspect or confirmed Ebola case is identified quickly. We are working with our healthcare partners and emergency management to further develop emergency operations that will address the concerns and unique needs of health care facilities. We want to ensure that healthcare providers, who may care for Ebola patients or persons under investigation, are trained and consider the resource needs, such as personal protective equipment, (PPE). It is necessary to identify any gaps ahead of time and the resources to fill the gaps. We are aware through our many phone calls with the NJDOH that the New Jersey Hospital Association surveyed local hospitals on their preparedness levels and are making sure that all are prepared.
OCHD is preparing risk communication messages for internal staff as well as for the public on Ebola which include risks to the public, risk of transmission and protective measures. Links to these can be found on the OCHD website at www.ochd.org. The OCHD also encourages all partners to join the OCHD HAN which is an extension of the CDC Health Alert Network. And OCHD Health alert Network staff person is responsible for getting these messages out 24/7.
Crawford continued, “We will make sure that our Communicable Disease staff has the latest recommendations for travelers which can be shared with the public. This is intended to provide public health authorities and other partners with a framework for appropriate public health interventions and travel options for persons exposed to Ebola.
“We always encourage travelers to access current information on the CDC Travelers’ Health website which includes travel notices and Ebola outbreak information.”
Regenye concluded, “There are still many unknowns regarding Ebola. Many are asking if there is a danger of Ebola spreading in the United States. To the best of our knowledge and following CDC guidelines regarding transmission, Ebola is NOT spread through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is extremely low. We know how to stop Ebola’s further spread; through case finding, isolation of ill people, contacting people exposed to the ill person and further isolation of contacts for the appropriate amount of time. People need to remember that Ebola is NOT airborne and a person MUST have symptoms to be able to spread to others. The OCHD is reminding all of their healthcare partners and laboratories to use meticulous infection control at all times. We understand that Ebola causes a lot of public worry and concern and that is why we are working to make sure every health measure is taken ahead of time.”
The OCHD has also added to its website a brochure entitled Coping with the Emotional Impact of Public Health Emergencies. It gives information where you can get reliable information, coping with emergencies, uncertainty, reactions to a public health risk, and ways to cope with stress and anxiety. Please visit the OCHD website at www.ochd.org for updated information.