The Ebola outbreak has arrived from the other side of the world to the Lone Star State. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with the deadly disease in the USA, died at a Dallas hospital on October 8, according to a report in USA Today. He carried the virus from Liberia to Dallas.

A Texas incinerator has destroyed drums loaded with items believed to have been contaminated by Duncan with Ebola in a report that appeared in The Austin American-Statesman. Veolia North America says the drums taken from a Dallas apartment where Duncan became ill were destroyed Friday at the company’s incinerator in nearby Port Arthur. His health care worker Nina Pham also contracted Ebola even though she wore protective gear while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with the deadly disease in the USA.

With Ebola so prominently featured in the news, some Orange County residents may wonder what plans and procedures local emergency personnel have to respond to an outbreak.
Amanda Moore, Orange County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Planner, said the county has plans in place for all infectious diseases including Ebola. Moore said the procedures for infectious disease-like symptoms is to notify and inform emergency and medical personnel, contain the disease, take precautions, protect the public and disseminate vaccines.

There is also personal protective equipment for first responders.

She added she has been communicating with local, regional and state planning officials since the Ebola outbreak. Jeff Kelley, Emergency Management Coordinator for Orange County, said Moore’s job is to respond to public health outbreaks. He said Moore has been speaking with public health officials, hospitals, nursing homes and coordinating through daily conference calls to combat the Ebola threat. “We’re watching this very, very closely,” he said.

Kelley also added hospitals have their own emergency operating procedures. Jarren Garrett, chief administrative office for Baptist Orange Hospital, stated the hospital will follow the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines for all patients presenting to the hospital with Ebola symptoms. 

The CDC statement reads those who have traveled to West Africa in the last three weeks or who had close contact with someone who has traveled to West Africa and was ill or is known to be infected with Ebola and who have the following signs and symptoms:
Fever greater than 101.5 and at least one of the following:
Severe headache
Muscle or joint pain
Diarrhea and/or vomiting
Abdominal pain
Unexplained bleeding

Lee Anne Brown, assistant chief with the Orange Fire Department and the city’s emergency coordinator, said they are taking universal precautions. “We provide gloves and masks with face shields,” Brown said. “Acadian Ambulance Service carries body suits. We follow decontamination procedures.”

Brown said she’s been keeping up with the latest news on the outbreak.

She also cautioned that it’s the start of flu season and people need to protect themselves by washing their hands well and covering their sneezes and coughs as best one can.