If you see some strange activity this week such as a bunch of men in women in hazmat suits that look like they’re responding to an Ebola outbreak, don’t be too alarmed.
From Monday, Nov. 4 through Friday, Nov. 8, officials from the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the NC Department of Public Safety will be working with federal, state and local officials to run “a multi-state Ebola virus disease emergency preparedness exercise” that includes North Carolina.
The drill is being coordinated by DHHS’s Health Care Preparedness Program in the Division of Health Service Regulation, and, according to a press release sent out by the state Monday morning as the drill began, the exercise will focus on “the movement of patients between hospitals when Ebola is a suspected or confirmed diagnosis.”
That press release adds, “The drill will involve local hospitals and health care agencies across the state to simulate how public health, first responders and health care providers would respond if someone in North Carolina were to be diagnosed with Ebola virus disease.”
Because of the drill, health officials are warning that people across the state might see health care workers moving around in protective gear and they may also see medical, law enforcement and other Ebola-related response teams in action in counties across the state.
Dr. Zack Moore, the state epidemiologist, said that these exercises are a very effective way to prepare for a real outbreak of the virus.
“A drill is the best way for us to test emergency plans at all levels and make sure we are prepared,” Moore said. “Together with our partners we want to do everything we can to keep North Carolinians safe from Ebola and other infectious disease threats.”
According to the state, following the 2014 to 2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, federal agencies gave special funding to ensure that the nation’s health care system is ready to “safely and successfully identify, manage and treat patients with Ebola or patients under investigation for Ebola.”
This is the first statewide full-scale Ebola exercise in North Carolina. Other participants include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Regional Ebola Treatment Center in Atlanta and the US Secretary of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness & Response Region IV Regional Emergency Coordinators are also taking part in the drill.
The disease from the Ebola virus, which was first discovered in 1976, can be deadly, and is, according to state officials, “spread through unprotected contact with blood or body fluids from someone who is infected.”
The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 and, since that time, outbreaks have occurred in several African countries.