Agencies Coordinate Return of Missionaries from West Africa
The N.C. DHHS’ Division of Public Health, the Mecklenburg County Health Department and SIM USA are working in collaboration upon the return of missionaries, staff and their families from West African countries currently affected by an Ebola outbreak.
SIM USA is a Charlotte-based mission organization, and some of their staff provided patient care to persons with Ebola.
For precautionary measures, NC Public Health officials are requiring a period of quarantine for these staff and other people who were exposed to Ebola and are returning to North Carolina within 21 days since their last exposure. No returning SIM USA staff member is sick or has symptoms of Ebola infection, and there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in North Carolina. These are preventative measures being taken, and at this time public health officials say there is no cause for concern.
According to Dr. Stephen Keener, Mecklenburg County Medical Director, “Quarantine is a public health measure to protect the public that requires healthy people who were exposed to a disease to be prevented from contact with others until it is certain that they are not infected.” The 21-day period is based on the longest duration of incubation, which is the delay between exposure and onset of illness for Ebola infection. The average incubation period is 8-10 days, while the range is 2-21 days. In this case, the period of quarantine is only for the length of time necessary to complete the 21-days observation period.
Ebola is not spread through the air, water or food. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids (blood, urine, feces, saliva and other secretions) of an infected person, or with objects like needles that have been contaminated with the virus.
“Mecklenburg County, NC DHHS’ Division of Public Health and SIM USA are working hand-in-hand to assure quarantine is carried-out with respect and care for these dedicated people,” said Keener. “Public health officials express their gratitude to the courageous missionaries who are participating in the medical and humanitarian response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
This measure is being taken out of an abundance of caution, and it is important to remember that there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in North Carolina.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola currently poses no substantial risk to the U.S. general population.
For additional information on Ebola, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/.