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Are you ready to respond

How your community deals with potential disease outbreaks MUST start before the incident occurs.

My annual physical was due this past week and, as directed, I arrived 15 minutes early to the Johns Hopkins Physician practice in downtown Washington. As I stepped off the elevator, a receptionist greeted me but stood about four feet away.

She took only a couple of seconds to fire off questions: “How are you today? How are you feeling? Have you done any international travel recently? Where?”

When I answered “only to London, England,” she smiled, knowing that I did not fit the profile of someone who may have contracted the Ebola virus.

The topic that managers need to discuss with their police, fire, EMS, and dispatch is whether they have adjusted protocols for call takers to include the same questions. If not; why not? When someone calls 9-1-1 and reports that they have been ill, suffering from flu-like symptoms, or the other characteristics of the Ebola virus, it takes but a few seconds to quickly eliminate that diagnosis although you might have a patient with the flu or Enterovirus.

ICMA and the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) have been meeting with officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), White House, National Institute of Health, American Public Works Association, National Emergency Management Association, and others to identify steps that communities can take before a diagnosis. The outcome, should another case of Ebola travel to the United States, depends largely on steps taken to prepare before a case presents itself.

For all the latest details, steps to take, and a summary of protocols, go to: