Federal health authorities are working hard to reassure the public they’re ready to contain the Ebola virus after announcing the first confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S. — a man who traveled from Liberia to Texas.
Health workers are now trying to find people the infected man may have come into contact with. Those contacts will be monitored for 21 days.
“You’ve having to monitor all of those folks this person has been in contact with. And then that may expand to, you know, if one of those people is sick then you expand to trace all of their contacts,” says Jeanne Ringel, director of the population health program at RAND Corporation.
All that monitoring takes a lot of people and resources. Federal health officials tried to get a head start.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent checklists to hospitals with advice on containing the disease and protecting staff. The U.S. started beefing up bioterrorism preparedness years ago, after the anthrax attacks in 2001.
Now, health officials say, all of that prep work is paying off.
“Our health system today is in much better shape than it was five or ten years ago to be able to identify and contain outbreaks like Ebola, even though that’s not exactly what we’re planning for,” says Dr. Paul Biddinger, chief of the division of emergency preparedness at Mass General Hospital.
Dr. Biddinger says he’s not surprised that an Ebola case showed up in the U.S. He’s been preparing for it for months.