Governor O’Malley announced that starting Monday, October 27, Maryland will directly monitor the health of all returning travelers from the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, which are battling a serious Ebola outbreak. This effort will build on extensive outreach and monitoring already underway by the state and local health departments of the state.
“We are taking aggressive action to keep Marylanders safe,” said Governor O’Malley. “We are monitoring comprehensively, and if someone does fall ill with Ebola, we have a plan in place to identify the condition, isolate the patient, provide care safely, and contain the spread of infection.”
Under the plan, screeners at the airports of entry will provide the names and contact information for all travelers from the affected countries with destinations in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will make contact through a new outbound call center and provide specific guidance, information, and 24-hour numbers for assistance.
The state will coordinate daily contact with the travelers during the 21 days following the last possible exposure when illness might develop. The state will work with local health departments to conduct direct outreach as needed. Should a traveler need medical attention, health officials will provide advance direction to the emergency management system for transport and the local hospital for evaluation. Maryland’s public health laboratory is available 24 hours a day for Ebola testing.
“Every day, public health workers in Maryland reach out to patients with such diseases as tuberculosis and meningitis,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Our plan for Ebola builds upon the strong and proven foundation.”
The policy includes specific provisions for health care workers who are returning from caring for Ebola patients. Individuals at high or some risk of infection will sign agreements outlining certain restrictions, and other travelers will receive daily monitoring and will be alert for signs and symptoms of possible infection. At any time — in case of noncompliance, or if necessary for the public health — the state may issue a specific public health order.
The level of monitoring and restrictions, including planned and unannounced home visits, will be based on the potential risk. Specifically:
- Home restriction for individuals at “high risk.” Individuals with a known exposure to Ebola virus, such as through a splash of body fluid on exposed skin or a needle-stick injury will remain at home for the 21-day period and will be closely monitored.
- Activity restriction for individuals at “some risk.” Health care workers who were wearing personal protective equipment during care for patients with Ebola virus are at “some risk.” They will refrain from attending mass gatherings and using public transportation, will refrain from traveling long distances without approval from health department officials, and will also be closely monitored by state and local health officials.
Governor O’Malley and Maryland’s public health officials worked closely with their counterparts in Virginia and the District of Columbia so all three jurisdictions are executing active monitoring policies that are compatible.
Statements of Support
“We are pleased to see the measured approach that Maryland is implementing to assess healthcare workers returning from West Africa. We applaud the efforts of these healthcare workers who are putting their personal safety at risk and want to ensure that they are appropriately monitored to protect themselves and the citizens of Maryland.”
— Dr. Paul Rothman, Dean of the Medical Faculty, CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine
“The University of Maryland Medical System supports this balanced science-based approach. We also appreciate the cooperative engagement among the three health systems and DHMH in our state-wide preparedness effort.”
— Jeffrey Rivest, President and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center
“MedStar Health fully supports the policy expressed by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regarding healthcare workers returning from volunteer work in West Africa. It is a well thought-out approach that balances the important work being done by caregivers from our region working relentlessly in the affected areas of West Africa to care for those with Ebola with the imperative of protecting the health of our community.”
— Dr. David Mayer, Vice President, Quality and Safety, MedStar Health
“The Maryland Hospital Association supports the state’s newly announced policy for health care workers returning from the affected countries of West Africa (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon) who provided care to critically ill Ebola patients. Developed with the input of hospitals and clinical epidemiology experts in the state, the policy is based on the scientific and clinical evidence available to date about the Ebola virus. The state’s policy strikes a critical balance between the need to closely monitor potential high- and medium- risk health care workers, and the need to have the right number of health care providers available to quell the virus at its source in West Africa and to take care of potential Ebola patients here in Maryland”
— Carmela Coyle, Executive Director of the Maryland Hospital Association