1 Iowan quarantined for ‘some risk’ of Ebola after traveling
Public health officials in Iowa are closely watching one Iowan who has recently traveled to a West African country and was at “some risk” of being exposed to Ebola.
As of Thursday, Nov. 6, the Iowa Department of Public Health said 12 travelers who had visited either Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea in the last 21 days were considered “low risk” and being ordered to self-monitor their symptoms and report back to state officials.
One person, however, had “some risk” of being exposed to Ebola as a result of that person’s travels and has been quarantined.
Public Health officials say the quarantine means that person has to stay at home for the 21-day incubation period of Ebola and take their temperature twice per day, including at least once with a Public Health official present.
Officials cautioned that there was no risk to public safety at this time, and none of the 13 total travelers have had symptoms consistent with Ebola. All were fully complying with Public Health directives.
Ebola symptoms include fever, vomiting and diarrhea. The disease is only contagious when an individual displays symptoms.
Officials would not release the names or locations of the individuals being asked to self-monitor or the individual under quarantine.
The Iowa Department of Public Health released the following FAQ section to the media:
Are any of these individuals displaying signs or symptoms of Ebola?
No individuals are displaying signs or symptoms of Ebola. These actions are being taken out of an abundance of caution.
Is the public’s health, safety and well-being at risk?
No, these individuals are not displaying symptoms. Ebola is only contagious when an individual is ill. Furthermore, all individuals are fully complying with the appropriate public health order.
If there is no risk to the public’s health, why would the state release this information?
The state believes in being transparent, especially when it pertains to the public’s health and wellbeing. We understand this is a public health issue of great interest to Iowans so we believe we need to be as forthcoming as possible. As such, the state believes the information needs to be released, even though there is not a risk to the public’s health at this time.
Case counts have been placed on IDPH’s web site since October 27 and are updated weekly. This will continue as has been done in the past with other outbreaks of serious diseases. You might find these updates at www.idph.state.ia.us/EHI/Issue.aspx?issue=Ebola%20Outbreak&pg=Status%20Updates.
Where are the individuals in Iowa?
Because of the small number of travelers returning to Iowa from Ebola-affected counties in West Africa, the release of county-level data could lead to identification of an individual, in violation of Iowa law.
Have monitored individuals been traveling around Iowa or been engaging in activities around members of the public?
Those who are determined to be at low risk are allowed to travel by private car and to resume normal activities, but not to travel by airplane, train, long distance bus, or ship. Travelers who are determined to be at some risk are under orders to stay at home, but are allowed non-congregate outdoor activities (such as jogging in a park) as these types of activities do not put the public at any risk.
Why weren’t these travelers stopped at the arrival airport?
These individuals were flagged at the U.S. arrival airport after having traveled from one of the three West African countries, and were screened by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials. Travelers, who are well, are allowed to continue on to their destination, including Iowa. Meanwhile, public health officials in the destination state are alerted to the arrival of these travelers. In Iowa, public health officials contact these travelers and perform an in person interview to verify their risk of having been exposed to patients with Ebola, and are served an appropriate public health order based on that risk.
What country did the individuals work in, who did they work with and what kind of work were they doing?
Releasing information about an individual could identify them and violate state law, which protects an individual’s health information from becoming public.
What can the public do to remain safe?
The public is safe. These travelers are not having any symptoms at this time and are being monitored twice a day by public health officials.
If the quarantined traveler were to become symptomatic, how would public health officials respond?
Public health officials have been working with Iowa health care partners to have a system to safely transport a sick traveler to a prepared medical facility that could safely care for that patient.