Steuben County Public Health utilizes phone system to monitor Ebola risk

At the Steuben County Public Health Department, appointments are set up entirely by phone. The department opted to utilize this existing infrastructure to its advantage as a way to pinpoint the risk of Ebola transmission within local clinics.

"We are doing a phone screening specifically asking about travel history or close contact with people who have traveled within 21 days (and) also asking about signs and symptoms of Ebola illness," Steuben County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Karen Travis said in an interview with BioPrepWatch. "Based on the responses to that questionnaire we would either serve them or monitor them."

In conjunction with assessing Ebola risk, the department is prepping for cases through drills and equipment training. "We are doing drills and testing each little piece of our plan as we set it up," Travis said. "We've identified isolation rooms. We've identified the Personal Protective Equipment that our nurses need to be wearing before they interview a patient that might possibly have the travel history and symptoms."

Steuben County Public Health also works to streamline its efforts with those of other counties. "New York is a home rule state so that presents its own complications because each county can operate a little differently in trying to accomplish the same goals," Travis said. "We meet as planning teams across eight counties to try to iron out some of those differences." Some of the shared countermeasures between counties include isolation, protection of nurses and other staff members, and notification from the state of any potentially contagious travelers arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport.