New travel constraints have been imposed on people entering the U.S. from three countries at the center of West Africa’s Ebola epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says starting next week travelers from those countries will be directed to check in with health officials every day and report their temperatures and any Ebola symptoms for 21 days. Although only two people have been diagnosed with the illness, media coverage about the Ebola Virus Disease continues to raise fears among the public.
Community Health Centers are fielding phone calls from worried patients and staff. They are also practicing readiness, reviewing screening protocols and procedures, and taking inventory of their personal protective equipment (PPE). Whitney Young Health , a Community Health Center in upstate New York recently told the local newspaper the Times Union in an article that it has “held four infection control meetings. and created an internal process for handling a patient with a travel history to West Africa.” Dr. Kallanna Manjunath said, “We need to be prepared, both for patients’ sake and, equally important, for our staff.”
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has also posted a Ebola resource page on their web site and is directing health centers questions/concerns about Ebola to the CDC and/or their state and local health departments, and to leverage State/Regional Primary Care Associations (SRPCAs) on concerns that have not yet been addressed at the federal level. SRPCAs are already sending out important CDC alerts to their health centers and gathering information. One concern is whether health centers have equitable access to personal protective equipment (PPE), and that staff have sufficient training in putting on and removing PPE, if that becomes necessary. CDC has posted a new guidance that instructs healthcare workers on this topic.
Health center specific concerns about Ebola and other communicable diseases will be the focus today of NACHC’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ronald Yee and health center experts from the field. They will lead an important NACHC TeleForum about the role of health centers in the Ebola outbreak today at 12:00 Noon – 1:00 p.m ET. To join the conversation health centers must call in must call in by directly dialing 1-877-229-8493 and entering PIN: 15035. The call will be recorded and accessible to those unable to attend. You can find the recordings and source documents at www.nachc.org (just click on “Clinical Issues”). The recording will be available approximately two business days after the event.
Stay tuned as we keep you posted on these fast moving developments.