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State Department of Health offers reassurance for Ebola fears

Officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health gave a media briefing on Ebola preparedness Wednesday morning.
Dr. Mary Currier, Mississippi State Health Officer, reiterated that Ebola is only a risk to those who have recently traveled to the African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, or people have had direct, hands-on contact with an infected patient.
“We need to be rational in our response and remember that this is something that is very low risk in Mississippi,” said Currier.
In the briefing, officials also addressed some of the panic being generated by any alleged threats of the virus entering the state. Currier said that if the State Department of Health doesn’t release that there is a strong suspected case of Ebola in Mississippi, then any news to the contrary should be dismissed as hysteria.
Currier added that the epidemic has spread throughout the afflicted African countries due to the degeneration of their health infrastructure. Many patients cannot be taken care of in a hospital, so their own family members are forced to give care, which leads to further transmission of the virus.
“The people who are getting Ebola are the people providing care to those who are in the last stages of their illness,” said State Epidemiologist Thomas Dobbs.
The State Department of Health also said that while Mississippi is at very low risk for ever having to deal with Ebola, there is a plan in place should the worst-case scenario become a reality.
“We have a pre-existing isolation, quarantine and contact plan, and we have added Ebola-specific additions to it.” Dobbs said.
The plan is one that the State Department of Health does not expect to have to use anytime soon. Passengers on flights from West Africa are now being screened at five airports on America’s eastern coast, and Nigeria has recently declared itself Ebola free after more than 40 days without an infection, Currier said.
Even more encouraging is the fact that none of the family members or other hospital employees who provided care to Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died in Dallas, have contracted the virus.
When asked what the greatest healthcare concern in Mississippi is at this time, Currier said that influenza topped the list, and encouraged the public to get flu shots.
Currier closed the briefing by asking everyone to be responsible and rational when speaking about the Ebola epidemic.
“We need to be careful with what we say to the public and only spread facts,” Currier said.