(HAUPPAUGE, NY, October 16, 2014)—On October 15, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services hosted a table-top exercise Wednesday to review procedures for isolation and quarantine, in an effort to prepare a response should an individual within Suffolk County become infected or come into contact with someone with the Ebola Virus Disease.
“This was a very valuable exercise in assessing where we stand and the role of each agency in a health emergency,” Suffolk County Executive Bellone said. “We were able to address questions and convey information to the key people who would have to confront a problem in the unlikely event that it should occur in Suffolk County. It is important that we all work together.”
The exercise involved more than 40 people who discussed information about the disease, methods of transmission, protective equipment and rules governing isolation and quarantines of infected individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. The hemorrhagic fever disease has killed more than 4,000 people this year, mostly in Western Africa and led to a handful of infections in the United States.
“I was glad to take part in yesterday’s Ebola diagnosis exercise hosted by Suffolk County and to arrange for the participation of senior officials from the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Congressman Tim Bishop. “It is important for all of the entities that would be involved in the response to a diagnosis be on the same page in terms of the response. The exercise was productive and I left confident that should the unthinkable happen here on Long Island, we will be prepared to address the situation in a way that protects the public and health care workers.”
The agencies that participated in the exercise were asked to review its own emergency procedures and planning to prepare for isolation and quarantine should it be needed. Participants included representatives from the County Executive’s Office, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Suffolk County Police Department as well as various Town and Village Police Departments, Suffolk County Sheriff, Suffolk County Medical Examiner, American Red Cross, Legal Aid Society, Suffolk County Supreme Court, Suffolk County Attorney’s Office, Stony Brook University Hospital, and others.
“Since the onset of the disease in West Africa, our Department has been working diligently to disseminate information to health care professionals and to collaborate with the New York State Department of Health and our emergency preparedness partners, hospitals, dispatch centers and ambulance services. We want to ensure continuity of information sharing and response objectives so we can respond, should a case be identified in Suffolk County,” said Dr. James L. Tomarken.
Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn and Dr. William Spencer also participated, as did representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who joined in the conversation by phone.
“Suffolk County’s top priority is, and always has been, to safeguard the health of its residents and the public,” said Suffolk County Legislator Spencer. “By calling together the key players who would be in charge of controlling any local case of Ebola, we are being proactive and ensuring that the County is fully prepared to tackle this challenge should it arise. As chair of the Health Committee, I will do all that I can, along with County Executive Bellone, our public health officials, and our first responders to ensure that our response to any instance would be swift and coordinated.”
“Proactive investment, practice and preparation equals readiness,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, a member of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee. “Suffolk County is not sitting back and waiting before we get ourselves prepared. Our County Health and Public Safety professionals are on the front lines of any public emergency of this nature; training and groundwork will help protect their lives and those of our 1.5 million residents.”
“As part of our effort to prepare, we decided to review our procedures for isolation and quarantine and go through a possible case scenario to help ready ourselves,” said Dr. Linda Mermelstein, Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. “Knowing ahead of time what to do will facilitate a coordinated and appropriate response in order to save the lives of our Suffolk County residents.”