For months, health officials have been preparing for what some say is inevitable: a case of Ebola virus showing up at the emergency room.
They base that, in part, on Rhode Island’s sizable West African population — including the largest Liberian population in the country per capita — and travel to and from Ebola-affected countries.
This became all the more imperative after CDC officials Tuesday confirmed the first Ebola case on U.S. soil, in a person who traveled from Liberia to Texas.
“We were cognizant of Rhode Island’s great West African community, we’ve worked with them, we realized it will not surprise me should we get a case of Ebola or two,” said Dr. Michael D. Fine, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.
“We’ve been working closely with hospitals, EMS [emergency medical services], primary care providers and what to do should someone appear who has recently traveled from West Africa and is ill,” said Fine.
“We think we’re one of the most ready states in the nation. We’ve been working on this for more than two months. Everybody’s pretty clued in,” said Fine of the state’s health-care system including Care New England and Lifespan down to clinics and private practices.
“…As opposed to our friends in Texas, we will not be surprised at all if we get a case or two and we are totally ready to take care of that case or cases.”
Fine and his staff have been meeting weekly with members of the African community, “sometimes with four or five people, and sometimes with forty or fifty.”
They have visited rallies, fundraisers and churches, spreading information so that people here can in turn provide accurate information to family and friends in Liberia and other affected countries, including Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.