AUGUSTA, Maine – Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement Thursday that Maine is prepared to respond to an outbreak of infectious diseases, including Ebola.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the state’s public health agency, has stepped up monitoring in light of three cases of Ebola in Texas and maintains “constant contact” with the U.S. CDC, its federal counterpart, he said.
“We have taken additional steps to ensure to the best of our ability that any suspected cases in Maine will be reported immediately and effective action taken to the extent the law allows to minimize all risk to the public health and safety,” LePage said.
Maine CDC’s infectious disease epidemiology team is “ensuring that the most up-to-date protocols are strictly followed by local and state health officials to manage and contain any suspected or confirmed cases,” according to the statement. That includes gathering patients’ recent travel histories.
The outbreak of Ebola is centered in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Health officials have said the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low.
Earlier this week, Maine Medical Center in Portland confirmed a patient was under 24-hour observation with stepped-up federal precautions aimed at preventing the spread of the deadly virus. On Tuesday, the hospital and Maine CDC said multiple tests confirmed the patient was not infected with Ebola.
If any suspected cases of Ebola arise, Maine CDC Director Dr. Sheila Pinette will immediately report to the governor, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and commissioners of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management to the fullest extent allowed by law, the statement said. Federal privacy laws restrict the release of much of patients’ personal information. An investigative team will consult with local health providers on the appropriate response, according to the statement.
Maine CDC’s infectious disease epidemiology team will respond to disease reports and health care workers’ questions 24 hours per day. The agency has activated its incident command system to centrally manage planning and response activities related to Ebola, according to the statement. It also is partnering with the Maine Emergency Management Agency to prepare to activate additional resources in the event of a public health emergency.
“Maine is part of the global community, and our beautiful state attracts people from all over the world,” LePage said. “This brings many good things to our shores. However, it also raises the occasional risk of certain challenges, in this case, the possibility of a traveler unintentionally and unknowingly carrying an infectious disease. This risk is always present, so the state maintains and continuously updates its infectious disease response plan. The safety of our citizens is our number one priority.”
LePage has directed an interagency group led by Maine CDC to ensure efficient and coordinated communication throughout any potential disease outbreak, the statement said. The group will partner with other state agencies, the U.S. CDC, the Transportation Security Administration and Canadian authorities.