What Boston Officials Want You to Know About Ebola

Boston health and medical leaders discussed plans for if an Ebola case was found near Boston.

It’s important to note right off the bat that the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) says the Ebola risk to area residents is very low. And that the press conference they held Wednesday morning is not a scare tactic or a “what if Ebola came to Boston?” type of story. But nonetheless, public health officials are stressing the importance of being prepared and educated about the ongoing spread of Ebola in West African countries.

At this time, officials say Ebola poses little threat to the United States. But, with the outbreak likely to continue for months, and Boston being a hub for medical research, officials have outlined plans just in case the virus is identified in the city.

“While the risk to our residents is very low, it is always better to prepare so that we can appropriately identify and care for suspect cases and work with the community to prevent further illness,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the BPHC in a statement. “We want a well-coordinated plan in place in the event a case of EVD is found in the city.”

According to a report by BPHC:

Ebola Virus Disease is a serious illness that is spread when a person comes in contact with the body fluids (blood, urine, stool, saliva, sweat, semen or breast milk) of someone who is sick with the disease. The illness is not spread through the air or through water, but can be spread through direct contact with Ebola infected animals.

At the press conference, officials talked about the following plans: monitoring for and detecting suspect cases early; partnering with hospitals, EMS, and other key agencies to care for patients and protect health care staff; and performing outreach and education in the community to raise awareness about causes and preventing transmission.

“We know that an important step in preventing the spread of infectious disease is identifying when the illness is in our community,” said Dr. Anita Barry, director of Infectious Disease Bureau at BPHC, in a statement. “We will rely on our tried and true methods of disease surveillance, and our strong partnership with health care facilities and other agencies throughout Boston to assure a heightened state of watchfulness for EVD.”

The BPHC wants residents to know that the city’s public health, hospitals, EMS, and other agencies “have prepared for and practiced what to do in response to a wide variety of emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks.”

“Through both training and experience, our EMTs and paramedics are well-prepared to safely care for and transport patients with infectious diseases,” said Jim Hooley, Chief of Boston EMS. “Our planning will ensure the highest level of precautions in the event that a suspect case of EVD needs to be transported for care.”

To find out more about Ebola Virus Disease, visit bphc.org/ebola.