Utah Health Department Updates Contingency Plan for Ebola

Aug 4, 2014

  Utah’s state health department is updating its plan to deal with any possible case of Ebola that might turn up in the state, even though the risk of an outbreak in the United States is low.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints moved its missionaries out of Sierra Leone and Liberia last week because of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in those countries. But epidemiologist Theron Jeppson with the Utah Department of Health says they’ve created a new plan so doctors and hospitals will know what to do if a missionary or any other traveler were to show up in Utah infected with the virus.

Jeppson tells KUER the plan is to “Get laboratory specimens drawn from that person and get laboratory confirmation that it is Ebola.  Quarantine the individual and make sure that we, obviously, put standard precautions in place for disease transmission for any health care providers that would provide treatment or care to that individual.”

Jeppson says the incubation period for Ebola can be as long as three weeks, so it’s possible someone could carry the virus without knowing they’re sick. Most patients, though, become ill sooner than that. Airlines are now screening passengers by checking to see if they have a fever before they board flights leaving the affected countries.

Ebola is spread by contact with bodily fluids.  It’s fatal for about 90-percent of the patients who get it.  The current outbreak in West Africa is the largest since the disease first appeared in 1976.