The Pulse

Deal forming response team for potential Ebola risk

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Sunday that he is creating a special team to assess Georgia’s preparedness for the Ebola crisis.

The response team will make necessary recommendations to minimize any potential impact of the disease in Georgia.

“Rest assured, Georgia is taking the threat of the Ebola virus seriously,” Deal said in a statement. “By combining the expertise of the health and research communities with our state agencies, Georgia will be uniquely positioned to combat the risks of Ebola should the need arise.”

An electron micrograph of an Ebola virus "virion"

An electron micrograph of an Ebola virus “virion”


Members of the group will include representatives of Emory University Hospital, which has treated four people with Ebola, including a Dallas nurse recently infected who arrived at the facility last week.

A GHN article last week reported that the state’s public health agency has boosted its outreach efforts to Georgia health workers and hospitals on dealing with the potential of Ebola infection here. full story

Commentary: A message from Medicare

Marilyn Tavenner

Marilyn Tavenner

This past Wednesday, more than 1.3 million Georgians began the Open Enrollment period for Medicare.

It’s a time for seniors and people with disabilities to look through their choices for the government program’s coverage.

In a new GHN Commentary, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services urges Medicare beneficiaries to take their time in assessing the plans’ costs and benefits.

“This year, people with Medicare who choose to enroll in a Medicare health or prescription drug plan will have access to more high-rated, four- and five-star plans than ever before,’’ writes Marilyn Tavenner.

Here’s a link to Tavenner’s Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at

Health data thefts a continuing problem

A state agency says Georgia consumers’ personal data has not been compromised so far in the wake of a theft of a laptop computer that contained some people’s health information.

The computer was stolen from the vehicle of an employee of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities who was attending a Clayton County conference in August. The laptop contained health information on 3,397 individuals who receive services from the agency.

Stethoscope on a computer keyboardA majority of these patients get services in the Columbus region, DBHDD said.

The health information included people’s names, addresses and phone numbers, dates of birth, names of guardians, marital status, Social Security numbers and Medicaid numbers, as well as diagnostic and behavioral data.

The agency said Thursday that there are no signs that anyone’s data has been used or accessed.

Data breaches in health care are not uncommon in the United States. full story

Latest Ebola-infected nurse headed to Emory

A nurse identified as the second Dallas hospital worker to test positive for Ebola is being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Amber Vinson, 29, would be the fourth person with Ebola to be treated in Emory’s special isolation unit. She is expected to arrive late Wednesday.

Emory said in a statement Wednesday that the CDC and Texas Health Resources specifically requested that the patient be transferred to Emory.

Emory University Hospital

Emory University Hospital


Emory’s infectious disease unit is where the first two Ebola patients in the United States were treated. The two American medical missionaries, who caught the disease while in West Africa, were successfully treated and released in August.

A third person with Ebola arrived at Emory on Sept. 9 and has been in the special unit since then. On Wednesday, that patient, who has not been publicly identified, released a statement that said in part:

“Given the national focus on Ebola, particularly with the diagnosis in two health care workers, I want to share the news that I am recovering from this disease, and that I anticipate being discharged very soon, free from the Ebola virus and able to return safely to my family and to my community.” full story

Is Georgia doing enough on Ebola?

The state’s public health agency says it has boosted its outreach efforts to Georgia health workers and hospitals on dealing with the potential of Ebola infection here.

The effort – involving disseminating information and CDC protocols about handling a potential Ebola case – comes amid mounting national concern about the virus, which has led to the recent death of a man in Texas and the infection of a nurse who treated him.

Eight Atlanta hospitals have expressed a willingness to treat a potential Ebola patient here, Dr. Patrick O’Neal, director of health protection for the Department of Public Health, told GHN on Tuesday.

Dr. Patrick O'Neal

Dr. Patrick O’Neal

He also said he believes it’s inevitable that a case of Ebola will be diagnosed in Georgia. (Emory University Hospital in Atlanta has already treated cases of Ebola, and in fact was the first U.S. facility ever to do so. But those patients were flown in from the epidemic zone in West Africa and treated in a special isolation ward.)

Public Health says it has communicated its guidelines to all licensed physicians, physician assistants, educators and emergency medical services providers. The agency also is working closely with the Georgia Hospital Association, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told the agency’s board.

The Public Health response to the Ebola crisis also comes as an influential Georgia legislator is urging the agency to be proactive in protecting Georgians from the disease, which has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa.

State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), who led the legislative charge earlier this year to curtail the Affordable Care Act in Georgia, wrote Fitzgerald a letter dated this past Sunday in which he questioned the response by the state and federal governments in combating Ebola. full story

Consumer Corner

Ebola fear spreading faster than virus

Experts say the worry about Ebola spreading in the U.S. has overtaken the facts.

Around the State

Medical marijuana plan

Macon’s chief Republican lawmaker says he’s starting to get clearer ideas on a road map to therapeutic cannabis in Georgia — and who would be able to take it.

Read the full article:
Macon Telegraph

Jammed DFCS phone system

Georgia DFCS officials say they’re revamping the agency’s phone system to prevent callers from being automatically disconnected during peak call times.

Read the full article:
Associated Press/Augusta Chronicle

Lessons learned for Emory

Dr. Bruce Ribner, the head of Emory’s Ebola treatment efforts, shared some of these lessons learned from that treatment at a conference.

Read the full article:

Gwinnett: Costs of ACA

The total effect of the Affordable Care Act on Gwinnett schools is still unclear, but school officials are monitoring costs.

Read the full article:
Gwinnett Daily Post

Fort Benning: Negative test

Fort Benning officials announce that a soldier who had recently visited Nigeria has tested negative for the Ebola virus.

Read the full article:
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer


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