Health & Family

Mecklenburg public health nurses monitoring travelers from West Africa

Dr. Stephen Keener, medical director for the Mecklenburg County Health Department, said Tuesday that he won’t disclose exactly how many travelers from West Africa are being monitored by local public health nurses because “it’s not really an important number.”

For now, he said, Mecklenburg nurses are monitoring “less than 10” people who have had no known exposure to the Ebola virus except that they traveled to the United States from one of the countries where the Ebola outbreak is raging. None has shown any symptoms.

Keener said the number of people monitored will likely change daily. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notifies state health officials when travelers from West Africa are coming to North Carolina from major airports with direct flights to that region. State officials then notify county health officials, who begin monitoring, depending on the circumstances.

Compared with the automatic quarantines announced in New York and New Jersey last weekend, Keener said North Carolina is “kind of in the middle” in its approach to Ebola control.

The state’s plan includes isolation in a hospital of anyone with Ebola symptoms, a 21-day quarantine for anyone with known exposure to Ebola, and 21 days of monitoring by a nurse for those with no known exposure.

“Some states are doing less than this,” Keener said. “Some states are doing more. … A whole lot of it is about managing fear. The public confidence is based a lot on how much they know, (and) how much of it is factual. … We really want our citizens to have a sense of confidence in what we’re doing.”