Connecticut declares preemptive Ebola health emergency, allows quarantines

Connecticut declares preemptive Ebola health emergency, allows quarantines
Connecticut’s governor declared a public health emergency in the Nutmeg State. The precautionary order, signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, allows public health officials to coordinate a targeted quarantine in case Ebola arrives in the state.

The Democratic governor’sorder‒ which is not in reaction to any specific case of the virus ‒ gives Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen the power to quarantine any person or group who may be exposed to or infected withEbola.

“We are taking this action today to ensure that we are prepared, in advance, to deal with any identified cases in which someone has been exposed to the virus or, worst case, infected,” Malloy said in a statement.

“Our state’s hospitals have been preparing for it, and public health officials from the state are working around the clock to monitor the situation. Right now, we have no reason to think that anyone in the state is infected or at risk of infection,” he continued. “But it is essential to be prepared and we need to have the authorities in place that will allow us to move quickly to protect public health, if and when that becomes necessary. Signing this order will allow us to do that.”

Workers wearing hazardous material suits arrive at the apartment unit where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus was staying in Dallas, Texas, October 3, 2014. (Reuters / Jim Young)

Without the declaration, there is no statewide ability to isolate or quarantine – instead, the authority rests with each individual local public health director, the governor’s office said.

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“While local health officials are certainly on the front lines of this effort, at the ready to address any situation, having this order in place will allow us to have a more coordinated response in the event that someone in Connecticut either tests positive for Ebola or has been identified as someone who is at risk of developing it,” Mullen said.

“We have had numerous conversations with both local public health officials in the state and senior officials at the Center for Disease Control,” she continued. “We have no reason to believe that anyone in Connecticut is infected or at risk of infection, but if it does happen, we want to be ready.”

Hospitals in the the Constitution State have already begun preparations in case the disease, marked by a hemorrhagic fever, arrives in the New England area. The importance of not being caught flat-footed was shown by the Dallas, Texas hospital that received the first case to be diagnosed in the US during this outbreak, and sent him home, even though he had told those caring for him that he had just traveled from Liberia.

"We do have a hierarchy that would be notified if a potential Ebola patient would come in and we would be able to start the appropriate measures to isolate and triage these patients," Dr. Ulysse Wu, chief of Infectious Disease at St. Francis Hospital, told WFSB.

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At Hartford Healthcare, posters that say, "Have you traveled out of the United States?" will be placed in all offices and emergency rooms as a way to raise awareness, WFSB reported.

Governors of nearby states have had differing reactions to the potential Ebola threat, according to New England Cable News (NECN).

Nowai Korkoyah, the mother of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, gets out of a wheelchair after a news conference with Reverend Jesse Jackson (L) in Dallas, Texas October 7, 2014.(Reuters / Jim Young)

In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the respective governors do not need to declare a State of Emergency to give their state health commissioners the authority to quarantine and isolate people believed to have been exposed to the Ebola virus.

"Gov. [Maggie] Hassan also remains in close contact with those officials and we will continue to evaluate the situation, but at this point public health officials in New Hampshire do not believe they need an emergency declaration," William Hinkle, the New Hampshire governor’s press secretary told NECN.

In New York, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino called for the US to issue a travel ban from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, but Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the idea isn’t practical, according to WCBS.

“We need to start playing a little offense and stop it where it is, contain it where it is, but have an international call for help,” Astorino said. “God help us if Ebola comes into New York because we were afraid to offend someone.”

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But Cuomo said that state officials are taking the threat very seriously, adding that the first line of defense is people in the transportation industry.

“We’re working with Customs on increasing the screenings and policing the screenings, if you will,” he said.