Illinois Health Officials Say State is Prepared for Ebola

International travelers at O'Hare will soon undergo screening for Ebola

Illinois public health officials say the state is prepared to fight the Ebola virus should the need arise.

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, held a media briefing in Chicago along with officials from the state emergency management agency and other state and local health officials.

Passengers traveling to an international destination through O'Hare International Airport will soon be screened for Ebola. O'Hare is one of five major U.S. airports where CDC personnel will be placed.

"Ninety percent of the people that we're going to be concerned about will be traveling through one of those airports," Hasbrouck said.

"It is a very dangerous world out there and we are very connected through our travel systems."

The screening involves trained customs officials questioning some travelers about their health, and even taking their temperature.

Hasbrouck said those plans are appropriate, calling a proposal from two Chicago aldermen to set up screening facilities at O'Hare and Midway airports for all international passengers unnecessary.

"It would be a waste of resources in some ways," he said. "I think that it is overkill."

Hasbrouck said some airport travelers will "get through the screen" and may even lie about their exposure to the disease.

"You ask them the question and some people lie," he said. If an exposed person later gets sick and seeks help at an Illinois hospital or a clinic, Hasbrouck said, doctors and nurses are ready to ask more questions about exposure and travel history, and, if necessary, to isolate patients.

"That's when the dots will be connected and that's when they may go to a suspected status and we may do testing," Hasbrouck said. The state health department will authorize any blood tests and inform the public of suspected cases that meet the criteria such as fever within 21 days of a high-risk exposure. Results, which usually come back in 48 to 72 hours, would also be shared with the public, he said.

Since Oct. 1, Chicago-area doctor Kim Tee has been pushing for an FAA ban on flights from Ebola-affected countries by encouraging people to sign an online petition. Tee says screening might not work, because the Ebola patient who died Wednesday in Texas did not have a fever when he entered the country.

"He was walking last week and he's dead today. We need to get it under control right now, immediately," Tee said.

Organizers of Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon said medical personnel have a plan in place to deal with all communicable diseases, and Ebola is no different.

"We practice something called BSI -- body substance isolation," EMS acting district chief Mary Sheridan said.

"All of our ambulances, all of our fire engines and trucks are equipped with isolation packs to protect our members and patients."

While race organizers say they are prepared, they also say there is no direct threat.


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