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State Prepared to Respond to Emerging Diseases

by Indiana State Department of Health on October 4, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS—Protecting Hoosiers from common and emerging infectious diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Ebola, is a critical function of the Indiana State Department of Health. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement of the first U.S. Ebola case in Dallas on Tuesday, State health officials want to assure Hoosiers that Indiana has public health infrastructure in place to effectively respond to this and other public health threats.

Ebola is a rare viral disease that can cause serious illness and death. Responding to Ebola requires a strong public health system, as well as an excellent system of medical care and hospital infection control practices. These are systems we have in place in Indiana and routinely rely on to respond to reported cases of serious infectious diseases such as measles, influenza and bacterial meningitis.

“Keeping Hoosiers safe and healthy is always our top priority,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “Our recent experience with MERS was a good demonstration of a rapid and effective public health response to a new and concerning threat. I’m confident that the systems in place will continue to work to keep Hoosiers safe and protected against any new potential health threat.”

Although a positive case of Ebola has been identified in the U.S., the virus is not circulating at this time.

How Ebola is Spread:

People can only spread Ebola virus when they have symptoms.
There is no risk of transmission if someone does not have symptoms.
Ebola is only spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola, using needles and syringes that have been contaminated with the virus or contact with infected animals.
Ebola is not spread through the air by water or food, or by casual contact.

The Indiana State Department of Health and our public health partners have procedures in place to identify travelers at risk of Ebola who seek care at Indiana medical facilities. State health officials and partners work with healthcare facilities and the CDC to provide testing, infection control and treatment guidance.

All Indiana health care providers are required to report any cases of illness that might pose a risk to public health including Ebola Virus Disease, MERS, measles, rubella, mumps, tuberculosis, pandemic influenza and other diseases. The Indiana State Department of Health is in continuous communication and works in partnership with local health departments, health care facilities, schools and others, in addition to the CDC and other state health departments in responding to disease outbreaks.

“We often deal with viruses and disease outbreaks that don’t actually start in Indiana,” Dr. VanNess said. “Recent measles outbreaks in Indiana stared on another continent, but through surveillance, investigation and education, they were quickly controlled with minimal risk to Hoosiers. We prepare for everything whether the threat to Indiana is low or high.”


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