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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 5:48 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 60º


Santa Barbara County Agencies Cooperating with State on New Ebola Quarantine Guidelines

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials haven't been notified that anyone is returning to the area from West Africa, but the department is working with state and federal agencies to get prepared in case of an Ebola case or necessary quarantine. 

Healthcare workers and others returning to California from West Africa that had contact with Ebola victims are subject to quarantine, but those decisions will be made on a "case-by-case" basis by local health officials, according to a statement from the California Department of Public Health issued earlier this week.

There aren't any reported or confirmed cases of Ebola in the state currently, but guidelines have been issued if that does become the case.

The state's approach is more flexible than the mandatory quarantines that have brought scrutiny in New Jersey, Maine and New York. California's rules apply to anyone who has traveled to California from an Ebola-affected area who has had contact anyone with a confirmed case of Ebola.

People who have traveled to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone but have not come into contact with a person from Ebola will not be subject to quarantine, according to a statement issued from California State Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman.

"Not everyone who has been to an Ebola-affected area should be considered high risk,” Chapman said.

“This order will allow local health officers to determine, for those coming into California, who is most at risk for developing this disease, and to contain any potential spread of infectious disease by responding to those risks appropriately.” 

Dr. Colin Bucks, a doctor from Stanford, returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa last week.

Though he has no symptoms of the disease, he came to an agreement to do a voluntary quarantine, but can leave the house for certain activities, like jogging by himself.

Santa Barbara County has not received any notification at this point that anyone will be returning to the county from that region, said Susan Klein-Rothschild, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

Klein-Rothschild said that all California counties are in communication with the state health officer, and if anyone is returning to the state from West Africa, including doctors and other healthcare workers, "they are notifying us that they are coming."

On Wednesday morning, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department had three separate phone calls to go over the quarantine guidelines with local agencies, the first with hospitals, another with emergency services and first responders, and a third with healthcare providers including local clinics.

The county always has a health officer, who would be the contact person should a case come up, on duty at all times, 365 days a year, Klein-Rothschild said, and each has been specifically trained on what to do if an Ebola-related quarantine is needed.

Dr. Alan Sugar, an infectious disease specialist with Sansum Clinic, said that the clinic is working to reach out to people and direct them to the proper place before they come into the system.

"The last thing you need them to do is to be sitting in a waiting room and potentially contaminating the environment and people around them," he said, adding that they are working to triage people "right from the get go."

As of Tuesday, Sansum began screening all patients for risk factors. They ask every patient who calls for an appointment whether that person has traveled to West Africa or had any contact with known or suspect Ebola patients, or handled animals in those areas.

"If the answer is no, we make note and proceed as usual," said Jill Fonte, a spokeswoman for Sansum.

"If the answer is yes, we transfer the call to a live licensed R.N., provider or physician for further assessment."

The Cottage Health System is training medical staff and hospital employees with ongoing practice drills, and the department's emergency room is also ready to screen patients for Ebola-like symptoms, spokeswoman Maria Zate said.

The hospital also has a secured isolation unit, called a Highly Infectious Care Unit, which is equipped with patient rooms, a satellite lab, and waste storage and decontamination rooms.

It also has a separate negative pressure air handling system, Zate said.

Marian Regional Medical Center, part of the Dignity Health Central Coast hospitals, also has designated rooms to isolate patients where a patient with Ebola could be treated, and infection control specialists are in communication with staff and healthcare workers to ensure a process is in place should an Ebola case come in.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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