Illinois’ top doctor says state prepared for Ebola
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ top doctor said Wednesday that the state is ready to test people for Ebola, but he called a proposal from two Chicago aldermen to screen all international passengers arriving at two city airports “overkill.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck promised to keep the public informed of any suspected cases during a news conference held on the same day Dallas health officials announced that the first patient diagnosed in the United States had died.
Ebola has killed about 3,800 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
“Until the outbreak is controlled in West Africa, there will continue to be some amount of risk here in the United States, including here in the state of Illinois,” Hasbrouck said.
So far, no one in Illinois has been tested for Ebola, he said.
The man who died in Dallas, Thomas Eric Duncan, flew from Liberia to Dallas days before he started having symptoms.
The White House announced Wednesday that extra screening will soon begin for travelers from Ebola hotspot countries in West Africa who arrive at five international airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare. Those passengers — about 150 a day at the five airports — will get their temperatures taken and will be asked additional screening questions.
Hasbrouck said those plans are appropriate, calling a proposal from two Chicago aldermen to set up screening facilities at O’Hare and Midway airports for all international passengers unnecessary.
“It would be a waste of resources in some ways,” he said. “I think that it is overkill.”
Hasbrouck said some airport travelers will “get through the screen” and may even lie about their exposure to the disease.
“You ask them the question and some people lie,” he said. If an exposed person later gets sick and seeks help at an Illinois hospital or a clinic, Hasbrouck said, doctors and nurses are ready to ask more questions about exposure and travel history, and, if necessary, to isolate patients.
“That’s when the dots will be connected and that’s when they may go to a suspected status and we may do testing,” Hasbrouck said. The state health department will authorize any blood tests and inform the public of suspected cases that meet the criteria such as fever within 21 days of a high-risk exposure. Results, which usually come back in 48 to 72 hours, would also be shared with the public, he said.
Hasbrouck reminded people that Ebola is spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. It isn’t an airborne illness.
AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson .