On Oct. 8, Phelps County Health Department Director Dr. Jodi Waltman and Phelps County Clerk Carol Bennett took part in a conference call with elected officials from around the U.S. about the nation’s response to the ebola outbreak in West Africa.

On Oct. 8, Phelps County Health Department Director Dr. Jodi Waltman and Phelps County Clerk Carol Bennett took part in a conference call with elected officials from around the U.S. about the nation’s response to the ebola outbreak in West Africa.
On the call were President Barack Obama, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden and Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism and deputy national security adviser.
“Since the first cases of ebola were reported in West Africa in March 2014, the United States has mounted a whole-of-government response to contain and eliminate the epidemic at its source, while also taking prudent measures at home,” reads a fact sheet from the White House.
“The president last month outlined a stepped-up U.S. response, leveraging more thoroughly the unique capabilities of the U.S. military to support the civilian-led response in West Africa. Domestically, we have prepared for the diagnosis of an ebola case on U.S. soil and have measures in place to stop this and any potential future cases in their tracks,” the fact sheet states.
The U.S. strategy includes four key goals:
• Controlling the epidemic at its source in West Africa;
• Mitigating second-order impacts, including blunting the economic, social and political tolls in the region;
• Engaging and coordinating with a broader global audience; and,
• Fortifying global health security infrastructure in the region and beyond, including within the United States.
Waltman talked about the conference call as well as the role of local public health agencies during the Oct. 9 Phelps County Commission meeting.
Waltman said her staff handles about 500 to 600 communicable disease investigations per year, and emphasized the importance of contact tracing with such diseases. Contact tracing refers to finding everyone who the patient has had contact with. The fever is the earliest symptom, usually of 101.5 degrees F or higher, Waltman said. Other symptoms that can follow include headache, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea. Patients also can develop a rash, she said.
No blood or PCR test can be done until symptoms are shown, Waltman said. Ebola can lead to dehydration and low blood pressure, which can cause organ failure, according to Waltman.
Ebola is not airborne, she emphasized. Ebola also cannot be caught through water or food. “With good public health, there’s a way to fight this,” Waltman said.
Waltman said, as health department director, if she hears of a possible ebola patient, she would go to where that patient is being held. She’d also notify the state health department, which would help determine if the patient showed symptoms that met the case definition of ebola.
Waltman said she planned to coordinate drills with PCRMC and doctors offices around the area to “refresh our skills.” She also planned to talk with EMS personnel as well as with the City of Rolla Fire and Rescue and coordinate training with law enforcement agencies.
Waltman complimented the hospital, saying staff there did everything right in its handling of the patient who turned out not to be ebola. PCRMC had “forward thinking,” and their preparations, such as screening S&T students from West Africa is a “best practice” that other communities could copy. “It’s a forward thinking plan,” she said. She said health department staff should not be seen as people who should be avoided. There needs to be trust between the people and health officials, she said.