Emergency Preparedness Focus of Fifth Annual Public Health Symposium

DOVER – More than 160 emergency preparedness stakeholders attended the fifth annual Public Health Preparedness Symposium this week at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus in Dover. The Division of Public Health (DPH), Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness Section, planned the event for representatives of federal, state, and local government, and non-governmental organizations as a way to enhance communications between DPH and its stakeholders.

“DPH appreciates this opportunity to bring our partners together to have in-depth discussions about the state of emergency preparedness in Delaware,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. “Constant communication is critical so that when faced with a public health emergency, everyone is confident in their role and how to work cooperatively with other agencies to save lives and prevent the spread of potential diseases.”

Five plenary sessions with four breakout sessions covered topics including: Stop the bleeding, persons with access and functional needs, Delaware Overdose Survival Education (DOSE), and the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps (DMRC). Attendees also heard from Dr. Christina Herndon who assisted in the response to the Boston Marathon Bombing and discussed her experiences. Dr. Herndon then participated in a panel discussion on the topic of mental health issues during and after disasters along with representatives from the Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and Delaware State Police

Health threats are constantly evolving. Real or potential threats to Delaware have included H1N1, Ebola, Zika, Avian influenza, MERS, and whatever strains are circulating during the annual flu season, among others. Examples of DPH’s planning and preparedness efforts in the last year include leading Ebola planning and response efforts, the creation of a Zika Action Team, joining DEMA and the Citizens Corps to roll out the refreshed PrepareDE.org website, spearheading the planning of a health care facility evacuation exercise at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, and drilling the Division’s ability to mass vaccinate the community at two recent flu clinics.

Funding for the symposium came from the CDC Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) grant. For Delaware preparedness resources, visit the PrepareDE.org website.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.


Delaware Update on Ebola Prevention and Preparation

Dover, DE – Joined by the State’s top health officials, along with infectious disease and emergency response experts, Governor Markell today provided an update on ongoing statewide efforts in response to the Ebola virus epidemic.Ebola Media Briefing

“We are facing an unprecedented situation with the Ebola virus, making prevention and preparation efforts vital,” said Governor Markell. “While the risk of transmission in Delaware is low, the State has been preparing for the potential of any Ebola cases for months to ensure we are in the best possible position to keep the public safe.”

While there are no cases in Delaware and the risk of transmission is low, the Division of Public Health (DPH) in the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is working to ensure the appropriate screening tools and disease prevention strategies are used to further reduce any chance of transmission. These tools and strategies are based on the best currently available science, which tells us that Ebola virus is only transmitted by infected patients who have symptoms. The risk of getting the disease through normal, everyday contact is extremely low.

DPH is working closely with hospitals, medical providers, EMS companies, and many other partners to prepare, coordinate care, and provide advice and guidance. Issues being addressed by this group include how to screen for the disease, safe ambulance transportation of potential Ebola patients, personal protective equipment guidance and availability, hospital readiness, infectious disease monitoring, and protocols for any doctor’s office that might see a case.

“Delaware’s hospitals know that the best way to address Ebola is to prevent its spread. The Division’s approach to doing that is sound, science-based, and will help protect both Delawareans and the health care professionals who care for them,” said Wayne Smith, President and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association.

In addition, the Governor has directed engagement from all cabinet-level agencies to ensure statewide efforts are coordinated and comprehensive.

“If a case is confirmed in Delaware, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rapid response team would be on the ground to assist us,” said Secretary Rita Landgraf. “They would support the Division of Public Health to trace any potential contacts who might need to be monitored, have activity restrictions or, although unlikely, be quarantined. The CDC also would work with the State and the hospitals to determine if the ill patient should be moved out of state for treatment.”

In coordination with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), DPH is receiving notice of all travelers from the three West African countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.

DPH is in daily contact with those persons to check their status and health, and will remain in daily contact throughout the 21-day period following their last potential Ebola exposure. If anyone shows symptoms of illness or a fever, they will be taken to the closest hospital for evaluation, and, if needed, isolation and testing. Currently there are 11 individuals in Delaware who are considered low risk that are being monitored. Eight live in New Castle County and three live in Kent County. “Low risk” is defined as having no known direct contact with a person infected with the Ebola virus.

Delaware is also designating “high risk” and “some risk” categories for those who have had direct contact with a person or people symptomatic with the Ebola virus. (See attached) These individuals will receive direct active monitoring for the 21-day incubation period by Division of Public Health staff, including daily visits. “High risk” individuals must also be quarantined at home and “some risk” individuals must limit their activities, including avoiding public transportation and large gatherings, and seeking approval from DPH to travel.

DHSS urges people not to make assumptions that someone might be infected based on their accent, background or skin color, and it is important to remember how hard the disease is to transmit.

If you wish to discuss a suspected case, you may contact DPH 24/7 at 888-295-5156, including weekends and holidays. If you have general questions, the CDC has a 24/7 line available for information on the Ebola virus at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

Photos from Ebola Briefing

Video from Ebola Briefing

Ebola Monitoring Fact Sheet

For further Ebola information and resources visit the Delaware Public Health homepage.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit here.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, drink almost no sugary beverages.

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Letter to the Public Regarding Ebola from Delaware’s State Health Officer

A fact Sheet on Ebola from the Delaware Division of Public Health.
A Fact Sheet on Ebola (PDF) from the Delaware Division of Public Health.

Dear Delawarean,

Because of the diagnosis of individuals in Dallas with Ebola virus and the subsequent intense media coverage, I know that people are concerned. As Delaware’s State Health Officer, I want to help Delawareans separate the facts from fiction and to know what is being done in Delaware in the event that we have the Ebola virus in our state. And I want people to know where to turn if they have concerns or questions.

The tragic epidemic of the Ebola virus infection in West Africa continues to unfold. Particularly affected are the countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Recently, the Ebola virus was transmitted to two nurses from an ill Liberian man in Dallas, Texas. The man subsequently passed away, and the nurses are still hospitalized. The two women contracted the illness due to a combination of direct contact with a severely ill individual and a presumed break in hospital personal protection measures. None of the community contacts of the man who passed away in Dallas became ill, including his family and friends. The other health care workers who treated him are still under observation and will remain so until the 21-day incubation period passes.

Based on currently available information, Ebola virus is only transmitted by patients who have symptoms and the risk of getting the disease through normal, everyday contact is very low. The people being monitored by health officials in other states who came into brief contact with the three ill people in Texas or on an airplane are being monitored as an extra precaution, not because there is a high risk of a genuine large spread of the illness. And, the close family and friends of the man who passed away in Texas were just released from monitoring as the incubation period has passed and no one became ill.

As you move through your day, remember this virus, and many other viruses, can be killed through careful hand washing and alcohol-based sanitizers.

To become ill with Ebola, a person must come into direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected individual. Symptoms of Ebola occur after an incubation period of two to 21 days and include:

  • Fever (temperature greater than 100.4°F or 38°C)
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomitting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Muscle pain

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has been actively preparing for a potential Ebola illness in Delaware. While the risk is low for Delaware, it is important to be prepared for any situation. DPH has been working with medical providers, hospitals, some employers, EMS, and other partners to ensure they are ready. DPH is particularly focused on ensuring medical partners can immediately recognize a potential case and handle the patient appropriately.

All Delaware hospitals have confirmed the ability to manage Ebola patients. That means they have put in place plans to isolate patients with Ebola, and are training on practices to protect health care workers. If a case is confirmed in Delaware, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) special team will immediately be placed on the ground to help DPH trace any potential contacts whom may also need to be isolated and help to determine if the ill patient should be moved out of state for treatment.

I know Delawareans have questions about what they should do if they suspect a person they encounter might be infected with Ebola virus. First, it is important that we don’t make assumptions that someone might be infected based on their accent, background or skin color, and it is important to remember how hard the disease is to get.

If you or a loved one start to show symptoms you find concerning, call your health care provider. Flu season has started in Delaware. Flu and several travel-related illnesses including malaria, typhoid fever and dengue are much more common than Ebola. The symptoms of all these diseases are very similar.

If you wish to discuss a suspected case, you may contact DPH at 888-295-5156 Monday – Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or 302-744-4700 after 4:30 p.m., weekends, and holidays. If you have general questions, the CDC has a 24/7 line available for general questions on the Ebola virus and can be reached by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

I hope I have helped to address concerns you may have. The attached Ebola Fact Sheet (PDF) is provided for further information.

Karyl Rattay, MD, MS
Director
Delaware Public Health
Department of Health and Social Services


No Ebola Case in Delaware

Dover — The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has reaffirmed that there are no cases of Ebola virus in Delaware. A Kent County child who recently moved from West Africa was evaluated in a hospital for a mild illness over the weekend, but Ebola was ruled out almost immediately as the child had not come in contact with anyone sickened by the Ebola virus. The child also lacked significant symptoms of the disease, and was on the last day of the 21-day incubation period. The child is fully recovered from a mild illness and is expected to be released from the hospital.

Ebola is a very difficult disease to get and may only be transmitted if a person comes in direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone suffering from the symptoms of the Ebola disease. The incubation period, the time in which a person exposed to someone with Ebola will develop the disease, is two to 21 days. The only Ebola case confirmed at a United States hospital is an adult male in Dallas, Texas, who was infected in Liberia.

“Delaware does not have any cases of Ebola,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH Director. “I appreciate the vigilance of the child’s medical provider to obtain the child’s medical history and alert DPH given the need to carefully evaluate risk for the disease. With global travel, we must always be on alert and ready to screen for such a disease.”

DPH has provided guidance to health care providers and educational institutions, including a message to the public schools today, clearly stating that Delaware has no cases. For further guidance for medical professionals, visit the Delaware Health Alert Network website.  The site contains the medical guidance provided from DPH since the outbreak.

For further information on Ebola virus, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion’s Ebola information page.

DPH reminds medical providers to screen for travel history and isolate the patient if Ebola is suspected, and alert the DPH Office of Epidemiology at 888-295-5156 (Monday-Friday: 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.) or 302-744-4700 (after 4:30 p.m., weekends, and holidays).

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, drink almost no sugary beverages.