Hawaii health officials: No automatic Ebola-related quarantine


Dr. Sarah Park, state ppidemiologist, briefs the media on the state’s Ebola response plan. Beside her are Dr. Linda Rosen, director of the Hawaii Department of Health; Rebecca Sciulli, BT microbiologist and coordinator for the State Laboratory, and Toby Clairmont, director of emergency services for the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org

HONOLULU — Governors of New Jersey, New York and Illinois have imposed mandatory quarantines for health care workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa.

But Hawaii Department of Health officials said Tuesday no such plan will be implemented in the islands.

The Centers for Disease Control will notify the Department of Health if passengers entering Hawaii are returning within a 21-day incubation period from Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia.

State investigators will interview each passenger to determine their risk exposure and how they will be monitored, said Dr. Sarah Park, the state epidemiologist and chief of the Disease Outbreak Control Division at Hawaii Department of Health.

Some may be asked to restrict their movement, Park said.

Should a patient show Ebola-like symptoms, which includes fever, severe headaches, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhaging, EMS workers with special training and protective gear will transport the patient to hospitals with 24-hour staffing to dedicate strictly to Ebola patients.

Family members living with the suspected Ebola patient would be quarantined in their home along with their pets. Park said she’s already spoken to the state veterinarian and sees no reason pets would have to be put down, as was the case in Texas.

Two blood samples will be drawn, with one sent to the Centers for Disease Control and the other to a lab in Los Angeles, said Rebecca Sciulli, microbiologist and coordinator for the Hawaii State Laboratory. Turnaround on the results could be a rapid as 24 hours.

All hospitals in Hawaii have been told to prepare to hold suspected Ebola patients in isolation for one to two days until they can be transported via plane or ambulance to an appropriate facility.

Neither the state nor Toby Clairmont, director of emergency services for the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, would disclose the names of the hospitals that would be designated.

However, Clairmont said the hospitals would be on Oahu, so neighbor island patients would be transported via plane.

Clairmont said the Healthcare Association of Hawaii has a 120-person medical team with physicians, nurses, paramedics, lab technicians and pharmacists prepared to deal with an Ebola crisis.

The team, in charge of responding in major emergencies and disasters in Hawaii, conducted its first training 10 years ago and has stood ready to deal with outbreaks of influenza, H1N1 flu, anthrax, smallpox and other threats to the islands, Clairmont said.

The Health Department is currently dealing with a measles outbreak on Kauai, Park said. In the past, the department has had to quarantine patients with tuberculosis and prepare for outbreaks of Dengue fever, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), bird flu and tuberculosis.