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Public health chief to lead state’s Ebola team

The head of Georgia’s public health agency will chair Gov. Nathan Deal’s 13-member Ebola response team. Her appointment and those of the other members were announced Monday.

Joining Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, a physician and commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, are two health leaders from Emory Healthcare.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Emory University Hospital, in Atlanta, was the first American facility to receive an Ebola patient and has treated four. Three have already recovered and been released. (The third was released Sunday after being determined to be free of the virus, Emory announced Monday.) The fourth patient, a recently infected Texas nurse, arrived at Emory just last week.

The Emory officials on the team are Dr. William Bornstein, chief quality and medical officer at Emory Healthcare, and Susan Grant, chief nurse executive at Emory.

The Deal response team will assess current health and emergency management procedures and formulate recommendations to minimize the potential impact of Ebola in Georgia. full story

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

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

Ebola scare in Cobb County a false alarm

The climate of fear about the Ebola virus focused on Cobb County on Friday, after a jail inmate there was tested for the disease.

But Ebola tests have come back negative for the inmate, health officials said.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Earlier Friday, Cobb jail officials told Atlanta’s WSB-TV that they were no longer accepting inmates after one showed flu-like symptoms.

The inmate told jail officials that he had recently traveled to Africa. The disease, which was first identified in West Africa in the 1970s, has recently flared up and spread rapidly there, killing 3,400 people.

The man was arrested overnight on DUI and other traffic charges. He was treated at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said at a Friday afternoon news conference in Marietta that after the man’s initial Ebola tests, “so far, absolutely all his lab work is negative and normal.”

“We have absolutely no reason to believe this patient has Ebola,’’ Fitzgerald said. But she added that the results of one remaining test had not arrived.

Late Friday evening, though, Public Health announced that lab testing performed by the CDC confirmed that the patient is not infected with Ebola. full story

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