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.

The effort – involving disseminating information and protocols about handling a potential Ebola case – came amid rising national anxiety about the viral disease. It recently killed a man in Texas, and two nurses who had treated him (including the one now at Emory) were later diagnosed with the virus.

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. He also said he believes it’s inevitable that a case of Ebola will be diagnosed in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal
Gov. Nathan Deal

The governor’s Ebola response team will also include representatives of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency; the Department of Community Health; the Georgia National Guard; and University System of Georgia infectious disease experts.

The team will also have officials with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the city of Atlanta, and members of the nursing, rural hospital, EMT and education communities.

Ebola has been known in Africa for decades. But this year, it has become epidemic in parts of West Africa, killing thousands of people.  The patient who died in Texas was a recent arrival from the West African nation of Liberia.

“We are taking every necessary precaution to alleviate fear within our communities and make certain Georgia stands prepared,” Deal said in a statement.

Individuals on the response team will be named in the executive order Monday, the governor’s news release said. The team will convene this week and immediately begin issuing recommendations.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is one of five in the nation that have begun screening incoming passengers from West Africa for signs of Ebola.