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Are Public Health Officials Ready for Another Ebola Outbreak?


By Allison G.S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

The World Health Organization reported another Ebola Outbreak this week in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the report,  a total of 21 people have been reported ill by public health officials.

Ebola Makes its Way from Africa to the United States in 2014

The Ebola Outbreak in 2014 in Africa posed several public health issues in the United States when three individuals within the United States contracted Ebola.  One individual had returned from a trip visiting family when he fell ill. Two nurses who had cared for him also fell ill, one of them not realizing she was ill before traveling on an airplane, subsequently causing panic as to whether she had inadvertently spread Ebola across the country.

Bureaucratic Blunders

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak on American soil, there were a few bureaucratic errors ,it would appear that even would allow for a potential outbreak to occur. As the initial Ebola patient was cared for by two nurses who later contracted it, it would seem that protocols were unclear on how to handle these types of patients, just as ABC news reported in 2014. Looking at the 2014 case, it would seem that individuals were not adequately trained to deal with the body fluids of an infected Ebola patient and ABC News reported that federal and state protocols were not followed at first.  This bureaucratic blunder would only create a sense of panic throughout the country as individuals worried about the quarantine procedures at the Texas hospital.  Later, great measures were taken to prevent further outbreaks.  According to ABC News, this included the plane being completely sanitized after the flight, and the flight crew given 21 days of leave to make sure they were healthy to return to work again.

Is the United States Ready for Another Potential Ebola Outbreak?

Emergency management works best when there are lessons to be learned and are documented in after-action reports. From there, emergency managers learn how to tighten their emergency management plans and work to correct any issues for the next time a similar issue occurs. With that said, the 2014 Ebola Outbreak presented a couple of bureaucratic problems where protocols were concerned.  Also, to a certain extent, the 2014 outbreak demonstrated inconsistencies in the knowledge of hospital staff in how to deal with Ebola. As a result, public health officials learned well from the incident how to prevent future outbreaks of Ebola.

Thus, if the current outbreak occurs, the United States will be in a better position to prevent further Ebola cases.  But, it is highly advisable for hospitals and public health officials to continue to hold in-service training sessions to make sure that staff are well prepared in the event of an Ebola outbreak.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.