Kentucky prepared in case of Ebola, but disease unlikely here, health official says

11/22/2014 09:15 AM

FRANKFORT — Kentucky faces a low risk of exposure to the Ebola virus, but officials are prepared in case someone here contracts the disease, Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Stephanie Gibson told lawmakers Wednesday.

Ebola has been a topic of debate on Capitol Hill and elsewhere after an outbreak in western Africa, but Gibson said during an Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare that Kentuckians account for less than 1 percent of travelers to the afflicted region.

While thousands have contracted the virus in countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report only four laboratory-confirmed cases with one death.

Although the risk to Kentucky remains low, Gibson said the state is prepared to respond if a case is confirmed here, similar to other infectious diseases like pandemic influenza and emergency threats like anthrax.

“We have been having statewide calls with all clinical providers across the state, readying them for a patient because we never know where the entry point could be into our system,” Gibson said. “Our partners that we’ve worked with have been the Kentucky Medical Association, the hospital association, Red Cross, just a litany of all the people that would provide different levels of care.”

With Kentucky troops from Fort Campbell helping the U.S. military’s Ebola containment efforts in west Africa, Gibson said the U.S. Department of Defense has its own protocol for preventing the disease’s spread.

“As we’ve seen they have some of their employees or military personnel will be in Italy after their tours, some are going to Germany,” she said. “Some will be returning to areas, bases in Texas for some of their quarantine period.

“In Kentucky, I have not been informed of any of our DOD personnel who have been in any of the affected countries returning home, but we do stay in touch with (Maj.) Gen. (Edward) Tonini and our emergency management.”


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