Health Dept. Ends Ebola Symptom Monitoring

Dec 30, 2015

Rhode Island’s Department of Health has officially ended its symptom monitoring program for people returning from West Africa. The decision comes as the World Health Organization declares Guinea Ebola-free.

An Ebola prep cart for health care providers at Rhode Island Hospital stands ready in a supply closet.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Guinea is the last of three countries where officials say the Ebola outbreak is over. That’s good news for West African travelers in Rhode Island. And the Health department, which began monitoring recent arrivals for fever and other symptoms of the disease in October 2014, considers the program a success. Daniela Quilliam leads the department’s acute infectious disease center. She says this massive public health effort has been underway for more than a year.

“Since that time we have monitored a total of 265 travelers from the three West African countries that were affected by Ebola," said Quilliam. "Four of those travelers were undergoing direct active monitoring, which means we would visit them once a day to check their temperature and their symptoms.”

Quilliam says department nurses called or visited dozens of travelers from West Africa every day.

“We were looking for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, red or bloody eyes, headache, fatigue, and fever, primarily," said Quilliam.

Not a single case of Ebola was detected or treated in Rhode Island. But Liberian Rhode Islanders, in particular, mobilized to raise awareness about the threat. State agencies, and hospitals prepared for the possibility. On Rhode Islander was treated out of state for Ebola after contracting the disease in West Africa. He was declared free of the virus before returning home to his family.

Rhode Island's symptom monitoring program received most of its funding from federal emergency response sources.