NYC Coordinates Agencies to Monitor for Ebola, De Blasio Says

New York, the most-populous U.S. city, is increasing vigilance against the Ebola virus by involving every agency that interacts with the public, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Departments responsible for health, counter-terrorism, public safety and human services will work closely with federal and state officials, even though no case of the virus has been reported in the city of 8.4 million people, de Blasio said.

“There is no cause for alarm,” de Blasio said today at City Hall, where officials met to discuss Ebola strategy. “In New York City, we have an extraordinary effort in place to work with health providers all over this city, agencies of every kind, to make sure that if anyone does present themselves with symptoms, we have a clear protocol on how to handle the situation.”

Health officials across the U.S. have moved to stop the spread of the virus, which has a fatality rate of about 50 percent and is transmitted by direct contact with a sick person’s blood or other fluids.

Screenings will begin this weekend at John F. Kennedy International Airport and will expand next week to Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta Hartsfield airports, the U.S. government said yesterday. Travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will be assessed upon arrival, with body temperatures taken, and asked whether they had contact with people infected.

After 9/11

“We’re not ready at airports yet but we will be,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters today in Trenton. The governor said a private call with the White House had bolstered his confidence in state and federal plans to combat Ebola.

De Blasio called the meeting after the death yesterday in Dallas of Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was the first to be diagnosed with the virus in the U.S. Participants in person or by conference call included officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Counter-terrorism specialists in emergency response and surveillance who have been working for the city since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center will be part of the effort, de Blasio said.

“The focus on terrorism that has created a state of vigilance in this city over years, it is a 24-7 reality, so the idea of having to be ready for something very challenging is not new to us,” de Blasio said.

Seek Treatment

De Blasio said New Yorkers who suspect they might be sick from the virus should go to a hospital emergency room. According to Health Commissioner Mary Bassett, only one person reported circumstances justifying a test for the virus, which proved negative.

The group in City Hall discussed various scenarios, including the involvement of the city’s Administration of Children Services for caring for children whose parents might need testing or treatment for Ebola, Bassett said.

Ebola testing is only recommended for people who are sick, have traveled to the affected African countries in the last 21 days and who report contact with a person diagnosed with the virus, Bassett said.

Doctors have referred 88 patients to the health department for assessment since August, and none of those cases warranted a test for Ebola, Bassett said. The person whose test was negative wasn’t one of the 88 referrals, she said.

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