BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The state of Maryland announced new steps to protect the public from people who have been exposed to Ebola in parts of West Africa.
As Derek Valcourt explains Maryland is following several other states in monitoring those who have been exposed to Ebola, including health care professionals.
These new rules apply to anyone who has been to the Ebola-devastated areas of West Africa. Health officials say these rules are designed to protect the public.
When Dr. Craig Spencer returned to New York City from Guinea where he worked on Ebola patients, he was not quarantined. In fact, he didn’t develop symptoms of the disease until after he’d been riding public transportation and gone bowling with friends.
That raised questions about whether those exposed to Ebola should be forced into quarantine—as was briefly required of New Jersey nurse Kaci Hickox, who had recently been in Sierra Leone. As a result, several states are now changing their Ebola policies.
“Maryland will be directly monitoring the health of all travelers from affected countries,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.
Governor O’Malley and top state health staff unveiled their new strict plan affecting anyone who has recently been exposed to the deadly Ebola virus in the West African counties of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Travelers will be grouped into categories. Those who have had close contact with someone who had the virus will be put in the “high risk” category. They will be required to stay inside their homes until they can be determined to be Ebola-free, generally about 21 days after their exposure.
People like doctors and nurses who have been wearing protective gear when exposed to the virus will be considered at “some risk” for the disease and face activity restrictions. For example, they will not be allowed to use public transportation or attend large gatherings of people or travel without health authorities’ permission during that 21-day risk period.
“We chose to go this route because we think it appropriate based on the science, the facts,” said Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein.
All travelers from the Ebola-affected West African countries—even those considered low risk for the virus—will be asked to take their temperature up to four times a day and will have to have daily communication with state health officials.
State health officials say they have the power to force some of these at-risk people to comply and even force them to stay in their homes, if necessary. They say these rules are, of course, subject to change as they learn more about the disease.
Despite concerns about Ebola, the governor says the biggest health concern facing Maryland today is flu season. He urges Marylanders to get their flu shots.
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