Royal Harbor update … Ebola and the Naples Community

EBOLA and Naples..For your information.. Terry

Dear Naples Presidents’ Council and other Naples Stakeholders:

Perhaps the last thing you want to read is more information about Ebola.  The national news rarely goes a day without an Ebola story.  Yet, it is important to understand that the spread of the Ebola virus can quickly become a local issue.  We therefore ask that you take a few minutes to read this brief message to learn what your city is doing to prepare for an Ebola outbreak, including changes in first responder protocol (EMS, Fire-Rescue, and Police).

Over the past three weeks, representatives from all Fire-Rescue agencies, EMS, the Collier County Medical Director, Naples Police, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Health Department in Collier County have been meeting to discuss and formulate protocol for emergency response and care that may be required should there be a person(s) who may have contracted Ebola.  One of the participants was Dr. James Augustine, Medical Director for Atlanta Fire-Rescue.  Dr. Augustine is also on the faculty of Emory University.  Emory has one of the several advanced facilities for the treatment of highly infectious diseases.

Those attending the meetings have learned several things about the outbreak of Ebola.  These include:  the medical community does not know how Ebola works outside of Africa because Ebola may not affect populations in the U.S., Europe, and other areas in the same way due to different immune systems; based on recent experiences in the U.S., the early indicators of Ebola are different that those observed in West Africa; in West Africa, the mortality rate is high, around 50%, and it looks like that mortality rate may be the same in other parts of the world;  it is not known why some exposed to Ebola become ill, while others do not; while it appears that the virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids, it may be transmitted by the coughing of a patient with advanced symptom; the most contagious stage of Ebola is in the last, most traumatic phase, rather than in the earlier phases when flu-like symptoms appear; and it looks like the Ebola virus can easily be removed from flat surfaces (airline seats, door handles, desks, etc.) with chemical disinfectants and/or bleach and water.

It is fairly clear that Ebola will continue to spread in West Africa.  Several African countries that have had Ebola cases are no longer a concern because of the lapse of 42 days since the last known case.  The medical community does not know if the Ebola virus will create a world pandemic.  Many are fairly certain that there will be other Ebola patients in the U.S., but we do not know if the virus will be contained to a few locations.

Failure to prepare for an outbreak could severely impact the first responder and medical care personnel of a community due to their exposure to Ebola patients.  Therefore, preparation and established protocol are essential if these personnel and facilities are to effectively serve their local population during an outbreak of Ebola or any other contagious virus.

Naples is fortunate to have citizens who travel frequently, and visitors arrive from around the globe.  This good fortune also means that we are not an isolated community and therefore we are not immune from contagious viruses that may originate elsewhere.  Recognizing a “potential” threat, the Naples and Collier County Fire-Rescue agencies, EMS, Police, and Sheriff’s Office have been adjusting their response protocol for medical emergencies.  The purpose is to contain communicable viruses to best serve the citizen who becomes ill, their immediate family, and the first responder personnel.

Most will not be aware of these changes in protocol unless one pays close attention, or unless they call 9-1-1 for emergency medical service.  While quite complicated in its entirety, it may be sufficient to know the essence of the new protocol.  When a person calls 9-1-1 for emergency medical service, they will be asked a few questions.  The answer will determine whether the caller may have flu-like symptoms and whether there has been travel outside of the U.S. within the past 30 days.  If so, the following may occur:  a law enforcement officer, if first to respond, may not enter the living unit but will advise that assistance is on the way.  Fire-Rescue and EMS personnel will enter the living unit, but they may remain several feet away while other questions are asked.  There will likely be no more than two medical rescue personnel to initially enter the living unit.  They may wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as a face mask, goggles, gown, or a protective suit.  If there is an instance in which there is a real possibility that a caller may have Ebola, the appropriate hospital will be notified, multiple agencies will be contacted, and those residing or in contact with a patient will be offered information and assistance in preparation for a possible quarantine.

In reality, most of us will have a far greater chance of contacting the flu virus, which has many of the same symptoms as Ebola.  It is therefore important that we do not dial 9-1-1 and seek medical transport to the hospital for flu symptoms when we haven’t traveled in the West Africa region, haven’t handled animals from that region, especially bats, or when we have not been exposed to one known to have Ebola.  For most, an emergency medical transport to the hospital is a waste of valuable emergency medical resources.  If we have the flu, our best option is to visit our personal physician or a clinic.  The hospital’s emergency room cannot make us recover from the flu.  We should not be there unless there are more serious complications than the normal flu symptoms.

As with any flu season, we recommend that all take normal precautions to reduce exposure to illness.  We then recommend that everyone continue to enjoy the wonderful Naples environment, restaurants, retail establishments, cultural activities, and recreational opportunities.

We asked that you consider sharing this message with your members, associates, and acquaintances.

Thank you,

Bill Moss, City Manager

City of Naples

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