LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A pair of City Council members insisted today there is no Ebola “crisis” in the United States and urged the public to focus their attention instead on likelier dangers such as earthquakes, hit-and-run drivers and the upcoming flu season.
“There will be fewer deaths from Ebola in the United States than there will be deaths by people hit by lightning this year,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said during a presentation to the council by local health experts on the fatal disease ravaging parts of West Africa.
Krekorian said he was exasperated at the “hourly Ebola updates from the news media,” saying the great amount of attention paid to the disease locally is unwarranted. He compared the number of Ebola cases in the United
States to the tens of thousands of people in the country who typically die each year from antibiotic-resistant illnesses, such as tuberculosis and the flu.
“While Ebola is an important public health issue in West Africa, it is not a crisis in the United States … we just have to stop this fear-mongering,” Krekorian said.
Councilman Mitch Englander echoed Krekorian’s sentiments, adding that a larger crisis looms if hospital emergency rooms are flooded during the flu season due to overreaction to Ebola.
“While this is scary for the country and the world, there are a lot of other things we have to be concerned about,” such as getting flu shots, preparing the next big earthquake and stopping hit-and-run drivers, he said.
But Councilman Paul Koretz, who initially requested the report from county and city officials on local preparations of Ebola, disagreed with his colleagues, saying while there is “no reason to panic … at the same they clearly thought the same thing in Dallas.”
He said health officials in Texas may have felt “a certain sense of complacency, so I don’t want us to be quite as complacent as our council speakers have suggested.”
“I think we have to be much more careful, and I think we have to be much more aware,” Koretz said. “I’m not sure if we have done some of the steps that we should be doing.”
Los Angeles County Interim Health Officer Jeffrey Gunzenhauser told the council his agency is planning an Ebola-response drill for November. He insisted, however, that the risk of contracting Ebola is Los Angeles remains slim, and local officials are prepared if a case does materialize.
“Not only have there been no cases (of Ebola) in Los Angeles County, but we don’t have anyone currently who has been recognized as a contact to someone who has had Ebola,” Gunzenhauser said.
He said the county Department of Public Health “is working very closely with our responder community, with our health-care partners to assure that any suspected gets reported to us immediately and we respond,” he said.
Gunzenhauser said the county defines a suspected case of Ebola as an “individual who has a fever” and has traveled to the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Confirmed cases are people who are found to be positive for Ebola through a lab test, he said.
Los Angeles County is home to a laboratory that is certified to test for Ebola within the first day a suspect case is discovered, Gunzenhauser said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then does its own lab test to verify the county’s results, he said.
While the CDC has suggested that any hospital that has rooms equipped with a private bathroom and staff trained to control infections could take in Ebola patients, the county has gone one step further by designating hospitals “that we support actively, where patients with Ebola who require special care can be referred,” Gunzenhauser said.
Some nurses across the state, however, have called for more training, particularly in light of a pair of Dallas health-care workers contracting Ebola after helping treat a man who later died of the disease.
“A lot of the training right now is being done for volunteers only. What we’re asking is that every nurse be trained,” Dorie Snow of the California Nurses Association told the council.
Nurses are typically taught how to put on gear protecting them from tuberculosis, flu and MRSA, but not how to put on haz-mat suits, she said.