Fayette County health officials say recent events show their plans for dealing with Ebola work well, but they want to improve the system.
About 40 health professionals met Monday at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department to go over the plans. They included representatives from Lexington's hospitals, emergency medical services, doctors' offices, local and state health departments, and other agencies.
Dr. Rice Leach, Fayette County's health commissioner, said afterward that additional nonmedical personnel might be needed to handle basic tasks, such as interviewing people who might have been exposed to the Ebola virus and recording such things as where they've been and who they've seen.
Accurate information on individuals' travel history would be crucial if large numbers of local residents were exposed to the illness, Leach said. And he said it might head off some of the problems that occurred in Dallas, where Thomas Eric Duncan, the country's first diagnosed Ebola patient, is in critical condition.
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Texas authorities have said Duncan wasn't quarantined immediately last month because details of his travel history didn't get to the right medical personnel. Duncan developed Ebola symptoms after traveling to the United States from Liberia.
Lexington health officials have enough people to gather such information now, but they might need more if there was a large influx of people who might have been exposed to the illness, Leach said.
"For small outbreaks, no problem, we have plenty of staff for that," he said. "For something big, we might need more help."
That's something authorities will be working on, he said.
Leach confirmed last week that county health authorities have quarantined two patients in recent months who developed symptoms resembling Ebola after visiting Liberia, West Africa.
It turned out that neither patient had the feared illness. But health officials said their handling of both cases demonstrated that plans and procedures already in effect here do work.
Rice added that the health department also received an email from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, complimenting local officials for their handling of the two cases.
"To an observer, you folks looked as smooth as silk," the email said.
Leach said the recognition showed that local medical officials ere doing "exactly the right thing" amid growing concerns about Ebola in this country.