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Are We Ready to Prevent Ebola?

October 30, 2014

Enrique Cerna talks with Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Public Health’s Infectious Disease Control Program in Seattle and King County about preparing for Ebola here. Duchin says that public health and local health care operations are ready.  They’ve seen the missteps in the handling of the Ebola patient in Dallas and they are working to make sure that doesn’t happen here.

Jeff Duchin, Chief of Public Health’s Infectious Disease Control Program in Seattle and King CountyJeff Duchin:  “So we’ve practiced similar types of responses for H1N1 for SARS for the potential biological since the early 2000s.

We’re learning a lot about what happens when a health care system is not optimally prepared from the Dallas experience. Even though we have great foundation experience here of preparedness here, we’re going to be more prepared and we’re going to increase our preparedness based on what we’re learning from Dallas”

Enrique Cerna: “Some talk about state nurses in a survey feeling that they’re not really prepared.”

Jeff Duchin: “We heard that message loud and clear from the nurses and few things to know when we talk about preparedness of health care workers, we really need to focus first on those who are more likely to come in contact with Ebola case during the clinical encounter, those who work in emergency departments front line who would evaluate a case and determine if really there is a risk there and then take the first steps to isolate that case, and then the other health care workers who if it’s real, would end up taking care of that case in the hospital . So we start with those front line workers try to get them prepared first and that’s what we’re focusing on now.”

Enrique Cerna: “So I understand that you’re hearing a lot from people that might be traveling and they are traveling out of the country, what are you telling them?”

Jeff Duchin: ““Well people who are traveling out of the country or domestically are at extremely low risk for Ebola, almost zero. The people who need to be concerned about Ebola are the people who have been to an Ebola affected country in West Africa in the last 21 days and people who have had contact with an Ebola patient either a household member or a healthcare provider in particular. The risk on air travel is also extremely low.

Ebola is not an easy disease to catch. Its spread primarily through close contact with blood, diarrhea and vomit from a very ill Ebola patient, it doesn’t spread casually in the environment things like influenza, pertussis and measles are much more contagious.”

Enrique Cerna: “What’s the biggest challenge in dealing with this right now? Is it fear and hysteria?”

Jeff Duchin: “We don’t have an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. we have an outbreak of fear and anxiety in the U-S that’s related to Ebola that’s not proportionate to the risk. The risk is very low, the need to prepare is very high because we like to be ready for these events even if they are low likelihood but there is no risk here currently in our community, there’s a great disaster going on in West Africa that we really need to focus on. If someone’s throwing grenades at you, you don’t throw your body at each grenade, you get the source and that’s what we need here, we need to go to West Africa and snuff it at source”

Enrique Cerna: “Ebola aside, what should we be most worried about in this state, illness disease-wise?”

 “Well chronic diseases are huge. We have things like obesity and related disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension which kill thousands of people. We have accidents and injury, firearms, auto accidents kill hundreds in King County alone each year.  On the infectious disease front, we have major killers, we have influenza which will kill an average of 20 thousand Americans each season. So there are real things in the community that we really should be focusing on if we’re worried about our health”

Enrique Cerna: “The flu season, almost upon us, get a flu shot?”

Jeff Duchin: “We always recommend a flu shot  particularly for those who are high risk, young children, adults 65 and over , anyone with an underlying medical condition, pregnant women in particular because over the last couple of years, we’ve had good data that show if you’re a pregnant woman and you get a flu shot, you not only protect yourself, but you protect your infant during those first six months or so of life and those infants are at the highest risk of hospitalization of all people”

Enrique Cerna: “Bottom line, what is it you want people to keep in mind regarding Ebola, the reality of it happening here and other things?”

Jeff Duchin: “We don’t know that we’ll ever see an Ebola case, we’d like to be prepared if we do but it’s not actually a health threat for us here locally at this time.”

Enrique Cerna: ““Chill out a little bit on all this?”

Jeff Duchin: “On the Ebola issue I would definitely say chill out, on the local issues do everything you can do to support getting this outbreak under control in West Africa, that’s a global health emergency. If it gets worse, our situation will get worse. We need to stop at the source”



Made possible in part by

Enrique Cerna

The son of Mexican immigrants, Enrique Cerna was born and raised in the Yakima Valley.  Enrique joined KCTS 9 in January, 1995. He has anchored current affairs programs, moderated statewide political debates, produced and reported stories for national PBS programs in addition to local documentaries on social and juvenile justice, the environment and Latinos in Washington State.

Enrique has earned nine Northwest Emmy Awards and numerous other honors. In June, 2013, he was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Northwest Chapter’s Silver Circle for his work as a television professional.

More stories by Enrique Cerna