The PJ Tatler

Ohio Orders Travel Restrictions to Ensure Ebola Monitoring Compliance

On Saturday the Ohio Department of Health ordered travel restrictions for those who are being monitored for the Ebola virus.

The new Ebola protocols include the following:

  • Ohioans required to have a public health official monitor their health condition daily would be prohibited from leaving their health department’s jurisdiction unless the health department jurisdiction to which they are travelling agrees to assume that daily monitoring responsibility. If that agreement is not reached, the individual cannot travel and must keep their daily monitoring appointments in their home health department jurisdiction.
  • Ohioans under self-monitoring and reporting requirements cannot leave the United States due to the inability to track them down in the event they fail to meet their daily reporting requirements.

The state issued the new protocols for local health jurisdictions to implement after learning that some residents being monitored had travel plans, said Scott Milburn, a spokesman for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Counties that include Cleveland and Akron have begun notifying affected residents of the restrictions, Milburn said.

“Ohio is in the situation it is in because of travel,” Milburn said. “It would have been beneficial if Texas had taken similar steps to these two weeks ago.” If individuals don’t voluntarily comply with the recommended restrictions, the state could consider quarantining them, Milburn said.

“As we’ve seen, travel is a potential problem. It’s why the people of Ohio are dealing with the situation we have right now. We don’t want to take the slightest chance for this disease to potentially spread, we don’t want people in other places to have to deal with what we’re dealing with and we don’t want potentially sick Ohioans to go beyond the reach of the good care we know we have here at home in the unlikely event that they get sick,” said Dr. Mary DiOrio, state epidemiologist and interim chief of the ODH Bureau of Prevention and Health Promotion. “We’re taking an aggressive approach, no doubt about it, but it’s just common sense. Some might criticize us for being too aggressive, but we’re comfortable taking that criticism.”

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DiOrio said airline passengers who traveled with infected nurse Amber Vinson are being classified for monitoring according to where they sat on the plane. Some individuals are being more actively watched, she said. Individuals are being classified into the following categories:

  • For individuals with any direct physical contact with the index case (including brief
    contact such as a handshake without personal protective equipment), ODH recommends
    quarantine for 21 days after the last contact in conjunction with public health officials.
  • For individuals without direct contact, but within a three foot radius of the index case
    (such as adjacent passengers in an airplane or car) for a prolonged period of time, ODH
    recommends twice-daily temperature-taking and symptom check (one observed by a
    public health official) for 21 days after the last contact with the index case.
  • For individuals without direct contact but in the vicinity of the index case as indicated by
    a public health official, notification and self-monitoring is recommended.

Since last week’s announcement that a nurse infected with the Ebola virus flew from Dallas to Cleveland and spent several days in Northeast Ohio, individuals who may have had contact with her have been ordered to stay home from work and many schools and businesses have been closed so they could could be disinfected as a precautionary measure.

On Saturday Governor Kasich said there should be a federal travel ban from West African countries dealing with Ebola epidemics. “I think it makes sense to have that ban in place,” Kasich said.

The Ohio Department of Health is also taking steps to stockpile protective equipment for health care workers. Saying that workers treating a single Ebola patient can use as many as 240 sets of personal protective equipment per day, the ODH is asking the state Controlling Board to approve $300,000 to acquire a stockpile of protective gear. The Ohio Department of Health reports a current stockpile of approximately 102,122 face masks, 2,592 goggles, 1,600 shoe covers, 576 coveralls, 1,350 hoods, 105,300 gloves, 29,220 respirators, and 7,026 gowns. The ODH also wants $500,000 for “cleanup and disposal of any contaminated linens and other items that may be generated by an Ebola patient, either at their home or a health care facility.”

The October 19 Ohio Department of Health’s Daily Ebola Contact Report lists a total of 153 individuals currently being monitored for Ebola symptoms:

Confirmed Ebola Cases — 0

Quarantine — 3

Active Monitoring — 22

Verified Self-Monitoring — 48

Self Monitoring — 52

Pending — 28

Governor Kasich said in a Facebook post on Saturday, “Ohio has taken aggressive steps to prevent Ebola in the Buckeye State. We encourage other states to make the same preparations and be ready to take action above and beyond that of the federal government.”