Press Release # 002-16
Friday, January 8, 2016

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Christopher Miller/Jeremy House:

With Guinea Declared Ebola-Free, Health Department Concludes Its Response and Closes Monitoring Program for Incoming Travelers

More than 5,000 people in New York City were monitored for Ebola symptoms by Health Department officials.

January 8, 2016 - The Health Department today announced that it had concluded its response to West Africa’s Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak and had suspended its monitoring program for incoming travelers. Last week the World Health Organization formally declared the EVD outbreak in Guinea over after 42 days (twice the maximal incubation period) had passed since the last person in Guinea confirmed to have EVD had a second negative Ebola virus test result. The Health Department issued a Health Alert to providers across the city stating that formal monitoring had ended, and that providers should consult CDC guidance regarding evaluation of travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, consider other travel-associated diseases, especially malaria, when evaluating febrile patients returning from these countries, and implement infection control precautions as appropriate. The Health Department’s response to the outbreak in West Africa began in August of 2014, before the first case of Ebola was reported in the United States.

“I am extremely proud of the Health Department’s response to Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, which included extensive preparation and coordination with all city agencies. This was truly a herculean task that could not have been accomplished without the help of so many, including First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris and his team,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “I am also proud of the close coordination at all levels of government, especially the work of NYC Health + Hospitals, its team at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Hospital, FDNY, NYC Emergency Management, the New York State Department of Health, and the agency’s medical reserve corps. Finally, I want to thank our employees and all the New Yorkers who volunteered to fight Ebola in West Africa. It was your selfless service that helped end this tragedy and stop the outbreak at its source.”

“It took teams of doctors, public health experts, the Centers for Disease Control, and so many others to mount a response that matched no other,” said Dr. Jay K. Varma, Deputy Health Commissioner for Disease Control and the Health Department’s Ebola Incident Commander for the entirety of the response. “I am grateful for the support from my team and all those who spent long hours working tirelessly to ensure that New Yorkers were informed and safe. We have learned a great deal from this experience.”

Investments made using federal preparedness funding over the past decade provided the foundation for NYC’s successful response. The Health Department began preparing for detecting and responding to EVD in August 2014.

The Health Department worked under unified command with the NYC Emergency Management and the New York Fire and Police Departments. The agency worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control, the New York State Department of Health, and NYC Health + Hospitals. Together, the city and state worked to find appropriate options for monitoring healthcare workers and close contacts, evaluating ill travelers, and performing testing for EVD 24 hours a day if necessary.

The Health Department developed an algorithm for patient evaluation that required healthcare providers to report to the Department patients with travel to an Ebola-affected area within 21 days of developing fever or other Ebola-compatible symptoms. This algorithm was adapted by CDC for national use. The agency also developed guidance addressing management of patients in different healthcare settings, including use of appropriate infection control precautions and specimen handling. The city Public Health Laboratory worked with NYS to develop guidance for hospital laboratory staff working with specimens collected from patients under investigation for EVD. The Health Department also supported the development of a Regional Ebola and Special Pathogens Treatment Center at Bellevue Hospital, collaborated with the New York State Department of Health, the Greater New York Hospital Association, and NYC EM to ensure readiness of four Designated Treatment Centers in NYC, and supported healthcare facilities to implement local, state, and federal guidance throughout the response through health alerts, citywide calls, grand rounds presentations, and meetings with local hospital associations and healthcare coalitions.

Working closely with the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, the agency’s Center for Health Equity led outreach efforts citywide to reach many faith and community leaders and organizations in every borough, with a particular focus on West African communities in the Bronx, Harlem, and Staten Island. The Health Department’s community outreach teams canvassed 14 neighborhoods, spoke at 116 community events, and distributed over 100,000 “Am I at Risk?” palm cards, in nine languages.

The Active Monitoring Call Center was established to monitor individuals potentially exposed to EVD while traveling in Ebola-affected areas. It required daily communications by agency personnel to these returning travelers to check whether they were experiencing any symptoms of illness, for 21 days after their departure from the affected country. Since October 2014, more than 5,000 travelers returning from Ebola-affected areas have been monitored by the agency with high compliance. Across the country, NYC monitored the highest number of persons, followed by Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Virginia. The Active Monitoring Call Center was closed today. The Health Department continues to maintain agency staff on-call should an individual have a specific concern about Ebola.