Riverside County’s preparedness for potential Ebola victims was the topic of last week’s Mountain Emergency Medical Services Committee meeting. Marie Weller and Dan Bates of the county’s Emergency Preparedness and Response agency described how the county is prepared to respond in case this emergency strikes locally.
“As of now there are zero cases in Riverside County and absolutely no cases in California,” Weller said.
As an example of their caution and concern, county health officials did monitor two low-risk individuals who had traveled to West African countries where Ebola existed. Last week, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county public health officer, announced that neither person showed any symptoms of Ebola during the 21 days of active monitoring.
The two individuals took their temperatures with a digital thermometer twice a day and reported the readings to the health department. Both individuals cooperated with health officials while being monitored, Kaiser reported in press release. The monitoring was a precaution that follows protocols recently announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he added.
Weller stressed that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with a victim’s blood or bodily fluids. Further at the time of contact, they must be in the symptomatic stage rather than early in their infection.
The first symptoms to appear — fever, joint aches and headaches — are similar to flu symptoms. Later in the infectious stage, abdominal pains and diarrhea begin to occur, according to Weller.
Thus far, the disease appears treatable if caught early. Victims need rest and fluids. But there is no effective test, yet, according to Weller.
When asked if coughing were a possible transmission means, Weller replied, “Only if they cough directly in your mouth.”
Riverside County’s Public Health Preparedness Branch has established protocols for responding to any contagious disease, such as pertussis or measles. For Ebola virus, the county health planners had to expand their existing toolkit, according to Weller.
A major component of the preparedness is communication. That includes weekly teleconference calls with state officials, as well as regional communications and local teleconferences to hospitals, clinics, emergency responders and other medical personnel, Bates explained. County Public Health and emergency agencies have been preparing and planning since March, Bates said, “long before the Texas incidents.”
In October, the University of California Medical Centers — Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco facilities — announced they are positioned to accept patients in California with confirmed cases of Ebola.
The state’s Emergency Preparedness Office has organized and will conduct a statewide drill this Thursday to evaluate current response concepts, plans and capabilities based upon related objectives and an emerging infectious disease scenario, which will be the Ebola virus.
Where to get information about the Ebola virus, symptoms or outbreaks
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/
Riverside County Department of Public Health
www.rivcoph.org/Ebola.aspx or call 951-358-5107