Ebola cases have health care workers’ focus on preparation _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer Louisiana, talks about the meeting of The Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, to do a "what if" Ebola exercise, as in what if Louisiana had a case of Ebola.

New federal guidelines for safeguarding against the Ebola virus are coming closer to what Louisiana has put into practice, the state’s medical director said Monday.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just recommended that health departments do in-person monitoring of people returning from Ebola-stricken West African countries, Dr. Jimmy Guidry said.

“Louisiana has been doing that and continues to do that,” Guidry told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Prior CDC guidance allowed for self-monitoring by the individuals, he said.

Guidry said the state health agency is watching seven individuals who live in five households — most in the New Orleans area — for the 21-day incubation period of the virus. Medical professionals are going to their residences at least once a day to check temperatures and to look for symptoms.

“I can honestly say I don’t think any of them are going to be a risk,” Guidry said. “They traveled to these countries and came back.” He said none had contact with Ebola patients.

Monitoring will end for the last resident under current home surveillance on Nov. 17, he said. Some go off monitoring in the next few days, he said.

Guidry made no apologies for the state’s beefed-up response, which has included advising some potentially recently Ebola-exposed medical and health care professionals to stay away from New Orleans conventions this month.

“This is not a disease you can overreact to,” Guidry said. “It’s not overreacting because you could die.”

Guidry said some have said there could be an economic impact from the state’s policy regarding conventiongoers.

But, he said, the economy and the state would be hit worse if there was an Ebola patient in New Orleans at a convention with 13,000 to 14,000 registrants like those expected for the American Public Health Association’s meeting later this month.

Some Louisiana hospitals are capable of isolating a patient with Ebola symptoms, but the state is working with the CDC on transporting any case to a more specialized facility, Guidry said. Nationwide, Guidry said, some of the protective gear that needs to be worn by medical staff is in short supply, and it’s no different in Louisiana.

Guidry said the state is planning for every eventuality in the Ebola fight including preparing for incineration of ashes of anyone who may die here of the virus.

“Louisiana at this time does not have an incinerator,” Guidry said, but a company is looking to get a license again. “If we had a case, it needs to get up and running soon,” he said.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the State Capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs. theadvocate.com/politicsblog.