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Mahoney: Central New York is prepared if Ebola arrives


Officials in Onondaga County want to be ready if a case of Ebola turns up in central New York. Earlier this week, all of the players who would be involved in treating the virus laid out a road map for Ebola preparedness.

State and local public health officials, along with hospital and emergency representatives, left a meeting in Syracuse with various to-do lists, to make sure the community is ready for the deadly disease. They’re looking at things like more training for health care professionals, clear protocols for 911 and emergency responders, and adequate support from the Centers for Disease Control.

County Executive Joanie Mahoney is confident the community has all the pieces needed to deal with a potential case of Ebola.

"In the very unlikely event that we here in Onondaga County would be faced with an Ebola patient, we have the absolute best and brightest and thought this through and are well prepared, and we want to make sure we are remaining vigilant,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney says she’s reassured by the meeting, but admits that some central New Yorkers may be concerned about what would happen if Ebola hits home.

"I would say there’s a reasonable amount of worry and conversation going on in the community," Mahoney explained. "And I, as county executive, want to make sure that there are no surprises and that we are well prepared, and we are communicating directly with the first line of defense and they have everything they need to do their jobs and do them well.”

Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) says he’s confident the local health care and emergency response community is ready.

“We have a health care system that is on top of this," Maffei said. "They know what they’re doing, they’re trained in this, and they’re getting more specific training now. And we at all government levels are doing everything we can to help them in the rare event there should be a case, because we want to be ready proactively.”

Maffei says he’ll be working to get better information disseminated from the Centers for Disease Control. Onondaga County will fine tune its 911 and first responder protocols, and more training for health care workers in hospitals will continue as the CDC refines its guidelines.

Officials noted that the most likely route of Ebola to central New York would come from refugee and student communities with connections to African nations that are considered ground zero for the deadly disease. There are already protocols in place to test the health of those individuals. In fact, officials say one student who had visited an Ebola hotspot and was returning to central New York was carefully monitored until it was determined they didn’t have the disease.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.