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Ebola message from Niagara County public health director

by jmaloni

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Mon, Oct 20th 2014 01:00 pm

Submitted by the Niagara County Department of Health

As the Ebola situation evolves, the Niagara County Department of Health continues to work collaboratively with Niagara County hospitals, the Niagara County Department of Emergency Management, first responder agencies, the New York State Department of Health, Customs and Border Protection and many other local, state and federal partners. All are following the most current guidelines, and are in continuous communication with the CDC and the state Department of Health.

All hospitals are looking at points of access and have implemented very clear policies and procedures designed to protect the public, patients and employees.

Ebola is a serious, often fatal disease. Signs and symptoms include fever, headache, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Infected individuals may also develop a rash or bruised appearance of the skin. Signs and symptoms can develop within two to 21 days after exposure to the virus.

People who have traveled to West African countries where Ebola is widespread or have had close contact with individuals infected with Ebola are at most risk. If you are ill and believe you have these risk factors, seek medical care right away. Alert the doctor's office or emergency room about your symptoms and travel before going.

Tell your doctor if you have had direct contact with a person who might have had Ebola.

If you plan to take an ambulance, make sure to alert the dispatcher of your symptoms and any travel.

If you have fever and flu-like signs and symptoms and do not have a travel history, you may have a vaccine-preventable disease such as flu, pertussis or strep pneumonia infection. It is important for people to make sure they and their children receive recommended vaccinations for these diseases on schedule. During a public health threat like Ebola, other diseases may have similar signs and symptoms at the beginning of illness. Getting vaccinated for preventable diseases will help doctors when they evaluate their patients for other diseases.

Through good hygiene, you can protect yourself from many infections, including Ebola. Frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer, keeping your hands away from your face, and cleaning areas of frequent contact are all smart ways to protect yourself.

There are no cases of Ebola or contacts to cases in Niagara County. However, because of the current situation, people who travel on airplanes, ride in ambulances or go to hospital emergency departments will experience additional screening, such as fever monitoring, and questions about recent travel and activities. These additional measures are in place to protect you and those you love. We ask for your cooperation, as these enhanced measures will help identify if an infectious disease threat is present, and stop it before it can spread to others in our towns and cities.

"We are asking people to call the doctors first for illnesses requiring a medical evaluation, and avoid using our hospital emergency departments for primary care," said Daniel Stapleton, public health director. "This will allow hospital emergency departments to focus on their most critical patients. We will continue to keep you informed of any changes in our situation. We understand people's concerns. The health and safety of the people who live and work within our community is our No. 1 priority."

For additional information about Ebola, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.

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