Iowa | EMS, hospitals and state lab partner for potential Ebola response

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced it is collaborating with the Iowa State Hygienic Lab (SHL), three EMS providers and three Iowa hospitals for testing, screening, or treatment of an Ebola patient, if required.

Iowa does not have any cases of Ebola, nor has it had any cases of Ebola in the past.

IDPH stresses the likelihood of an Ebola case in Iowa is extremely low; however, the designation of partner hospitals, EMS providers and the ability to test for the Ebola virus in-state is another step in the extensive and continuing preparedness efforts on the state, county and local levels.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City has agreed to serve as an Ebola treatment facility. Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines and UnityPoint Health – Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines have agreed to be screening facilities for an Ebola patient. EMS providers who have agreed to be designated as transporters are Area Ambulance, Cedar Rapids; Medic EMS, Davenport; and Iowa EMS Alliance (West DSM EMS), West Des Moines. In addition, the State Hygienic Lab has been certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test for Ebola, if such a test is requested by IDPH.

There are many other Iowa hospitals and providers who have indicated willingness to serve if called upon. “I am proud of these partners for stepping up to the challenge to ensure that Iowa is prepared,” said IDPH Director Gerd Clabaugh. “Iowans should be confident that while the chance of a confirmed or suspected Ebola case in Iowa is highly unlikely, the public health and state health care systems are prepared for that possibility.”

The federal government is working closely with states, and states in turn with local public health agencies, to track travelers returning from Ebola-affected West African countries. All of these travelers are routed to one of five screening airports.

  • Well travelers are allowed to go on to their final destination.
  • The CDC then notifies the receiving state of that traveler’s final destination.
  • If, for instance, the final destination is Iowa, IDPH contacts local public health officials to conduct a risk assessment of the individual and issue appropriate health orders.
  • Local public health officials notify key partners that an order exists in the service area; however, no details regarding the types of orders, numbers, or patient identifiers are given. This is required by Iowa law that prohibits potential identification of an individual.

Public health orders are based on a risk assessment (low, some, or high).

  • Low Risk – individual is ordered to take their temperature and notify local public health of the results twice daily. The individual is allowed to go about normal activities.
  • Some Risk – individual is ordered to home quarantine; this allows for outdoor non-congregate activities and requires the individual to take their temperature twice daily with local public health observing.
  • High Risk – individual is ordered to home quarantine, additional activity is limited and the individual must take their temperature twice daily with local public health observing.

These orders are issued to ensure an early as possible warning of the appearance of symptoms which allows time to arrange for appropriate transport and care of patients to one of the facilities listed above. If an individual under health orders were to develop symptoms of Ebola, IDPH would be notified and IDPH would coordinate transportation with a pre-identified EMS to a designated screening facility. This will ensure that no exposure to unprotected and unprepared healthcare workers occurs.

For more information on Ebola, visit Outbreak.

Kentucky | Proposed heroin legislation includes provision for police-administered Naloxone

Attorney General Jack Conway, prosecutors and law enforcement officers today joined together to announce priorities they believe must be included in any heroin legislation considered by the 2015 General Assembly.

“Last year, I presented a bipartisan bill to address the resurgence of heroin that did not pass in the waning hours of the 2014 General Assembly,” Attorney General Conway said.  “That cannot and must not happen again.  People are dying.  It’s time to put people above politics and pass a piece of legislation that addresses this addiction and people peddling this poison.”

Attorney General Conway, prosecutors and law enforcement officers attending today’s press conference are not supporting a specific piece of legislation.  Ultimately, they believe any bill presented must address the following issues:
• Higher penalties for high-volume traffickers.

• Larger scale dealers should be forced to serve 50 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole.

• Law enforcement officers should have access to Naloxone, a drug that is able to reverse a heroin overdose in seconds.  First responders should be able to administer it to an overdose victim without fear of civil liability.

• A limited, but workable, Good Samaritan provision is important to saving lives.  Currently, there is a fear among drug addicts that calling the police to assist an overdose victim will result in prosecution and incarceration.  If a person calls 911 to seek help for an overdose victim, the law should take that into account and provide them with an opportunity to make his or her case in court. This would only apply to users or those facing possession charges – not traffickers.

• Expanded treatment for addicts.

“The heroin epidemic is crippling our criminal justice system, victimizing our communities and killing users at an alarming rate,” said Linda Tally Smith, Boone County Commonwealth’s Attorney and member of the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Counsel.  “Decreasing supply by increasing penalties for heroin traffickers is an imperative first step in combatting the problem.  As such, I appreciate General Conway’s support of efforts to increase penalties for drug traffickers.”

“Heroin is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives,” Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said.  “It attacks rich and poor, male and female, black and white alike. Heroin has broken a lot of hearts in central Kentucky. We must strengthen our laws to fight this devastating drug.”
Attorney General Conway, prosecutors and law enforcement officers believe legislation must increase treatment beds and access to treatment for those charged with drug crimes.

“We cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic,” Attorney General Conway said.  “There aren’t enough jail cells and there aren’t enough courtrooms to fix this problem.”

The resurgence of heroin in Kentucky is an outgrowth of the prescription painkiller epidemic.  Heroin and opiate painkillers are an almost identical chemical compound that affects the brain the same way.

“We’ve done a tremendous job fighting the prescription pain pill problem in Kentucky,” Attorney General Conway said.  “In 2013, we passed legislation that closed half of the rogue pain clinics in this state.  As pain pills became more expensive and harder to get on the streets, we saw an uptick in heroin.   Those of us in law enforcement are doing everything we can, but we need the General Assembly to act and expand treatment for addicts who are stuck in a revolving door in Kentucky’s courts and jails.”

In January, Attorney General Conway announced that Judge Philip Shepherd directed $32 million from two settlements with pharmaceutical companies be used to improve public health in Kentucky.  The money has been used to expand adolescent treatment, provide scholarships for 800 people to Recovery Kentucky Centers, complete construction of a Recovery Kentucky Center near Ashland, keep open two treatment centers for pregnant women, and provide transitional housing for those completing treatment.


Mississippi | Dept of Health breaks ground on first stand-alone medical needs shelter

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) broke ground on the first stand-alone State and Regional Medical Needs Shelter in Mississippi. The $7.7 million facility will be located on Coy Avenue in Wiggins.

This shelter is designed to house Mississippians with medical support needs during an emergency or disaster. It will be built to FEMA 361 standards and should withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour and will contain a negative-pressure infectious disease isolation room – the first of its kind in any medical needs shelter in the nation.

“This facility is truly the first of its kind in the nation,” said MSDH Director of Health Protection Jim Craig. “The layout will make the facility versatile in the type of care that can be provided, and it will contain telehealth capabilities for communications with the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.”

The 23,416 square-foot shelter will offer shelter to those with medical needs exceeding what could be offered in a general population shelter and is self-sustaining for 36 hours with a backup power source, sewer and water connections.

“The generous officials with Stone County provided the property, which is close to the airport and to the general population shelter during an emergency,” said Craig.

The shelter is anticipated to be open and available for the 2016 hurricane season.

Funding for the facility is provided through Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds and made possible through partnerships with FEMA, MEMA, and other state and local partners.

Ohio | Flu widespread across state – Flu-related hospitalizations increasing rapidly

Influenza-like illness is now widespread throughout Ohio, and the numbers of associated hospitalizations are increasing rapidly.

Last week alone (week 50), there were 529 new confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in Ohio, bringing the total to 985 since flu season began in October. Just two weeks ago, there were 202 total confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations. At this time during last year’s flu season, there were 216.

Ohio also has its second confirmed influenza-associated pediatric death, a 16-year-old boy from Licking County. This is a reminder of the danger flu poses to children.

“Influenza vaccination is the safest and most effective way to prevent the flu, except for infants younger than 6 month old who aren’t eligible to receive it,” said Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

The 2014-2015 flu season, which likely will continue into next spring, may be severe according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza A (H3N2) is the predominant virus strain this year, and hospitalizations and deaths are higher when it is dominant.

“Many people have probably heard about this year’s flu vaccine not being as effective because of mutations in some influenza viruses,” said Dr. DiOrio. “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that it’s still very important to get vaccinated. The vaccine provides some protection against mutated viruses and maximum protection against other circulating influenza strains for which the vaccine remains well-matched.”

While vaccination provides the greatest protection against the flu, other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading it include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick and until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.

“These practices are especially important with flu activity increasing and family and friends gathering for the holidays,” noted Dr. DiOrio.
Symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Flu vaccination is available at most healthcare providers’ offices, local health departments and retail pharmacies.

While influenza-associated pediatric deaths must be reported to ODH, adult deaths are not reportable so total influenza-associated death statistics are not available.

More information about influenza and flu activity in Ohio is available at

Oklahoma | Flu activity increasing – First two deaths of the season reported

New influenza statistics released today by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) indicate 94 persons have been hospitalized and two persons have died in Oklahoma since reporting for the current flu season began Sept. 28.  Influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported statewide while two influenza-related deaths have occurred among residents of Carter and Oklahoma counties.

The OSDH continues to emphasize the single best way to protect against flu and its consequences is to get the flu vaccine. It’s not too late.  Many local county health departments, pharmacies and health care providers still have vaccine and health officials urge all persons 6 months of age and older to get the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them from influenza, especially babies too young to receive a vaccination.

Persons who already have the flu can spread it to others even before they feel sick. A person may have the flu if they have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever (although not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. Those who get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.  If, however, they have flu-like symptoms and are sick or worried about their illness, they should contact a health care provider.

Certain people are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications. Young children, elderly persons, pregnant women and people with some long-term medical conditions are reminded to contact their health care provider as soon as they develop flu symptoms

Health care providers will determine whether influenza testing and possible treatment are needed. A provider may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat the flu. These drugs work better for treatment when started within 48 hours of noticing symptoms. Antiviral drugs may be indicated as a prevention measure to prevent especially vulnerable persons such as infants less than 6 months old, or persons of any age with a medical condition which severely suppresses their immune system.

OSDH recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone. Avoid going to work, school, social events and public gatherings as well as traveling and shopping. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen before returning to a regular routine. To prevent the spread of the flu, the public is reminded to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and wash hands often.

For more information about influenza and activity updates, visit the Ok Flu View at and select the Ok Flu View link.

Oklahoma | OSDH preparedness videos available to deaf and Spanish-speaking communities

Disasters can have an impact on anyone. But for a person who is Deaf, or doesn’t speak English as their primary language, accessing important information to prepare for emergencies can be difficult. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has released videos in American Sign Language and also in Spanish to ensure the message of preparedness is available to various populations.

OSDH contracted with Deaf Link, Inc. to produce these videos using federal funds available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Hospital Preparedness Program. They cover topics such as having a family emergency plan, packing a go bag and winter storm preparedness. Each video features American Sign Language, audio English, audio Spanish and highlighted text. These videos will assist people who are Deaf, people who are hard-of-hearing, people who have low vision and people who are blind. They will also assist people who have low literacy with the video capabilities of being able to stop and review information on their selected topic of emergency preparedness. Some of the videos provide step-by-step instructions on emergency preparedness.

Glenda Ford-Lee, statewide at-risk populations coordinator, said the videos help close the gap in providing accessible education in preparedness for the state of Oklahoma. They address the three most commonly used languages in United States: English, Spanish and American Sign Language.

“These videos will be accessible to the whole community, which is what our emergency planning is focusing on for the state and the nation,” said Ford-Lee. “Everyone should have accessible information. Emergency preparedness information is very important and can save lives.”

She said the videos are just the beginning of products being developed to get information available in everyone’s primary language.

To access the videos, click here

Find more tips for preparing your family for a disaster at and like the OSDH Emergency Preparedness Response Service page on Facebook.

California | San Diego City and County team up to expand night-flying helicopter use

Fathers Day Fire_001

From a hangar at Montgomery Field where the City of San Diego’s night-flying helicopters are stationed, San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts and Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer announced an agreement Tuesday that improves emergency and fire preparedness and cooperation throughout the county.

The agreement calls for the City of San Diego’s two firefighting and rescue helicopters with night-flying capability to be available for nighttime water drops and rescues in the county’s 17 other cities and unincorporated areas. These helicopters are the only air resources in the region capable of providing night fire-fighting operations.

“The new City-County partnership to extend night flights to all corners of our region is great news for residents and builds on our efforts to bolster fire protection,” Chairwoman Jacob said of the agreement. “Wildfire is a year-round threat in San Diego County, from our cities to our backcountry, so I want to thank Mayor Faulconer for his leadership on this critical issue.”

Under the agreement, the City will respond to requests from other local agencies to provide nighttime helicopter flights in support of wildfire and emergency medical rescue operations to the extent its helicopters are operationally available. The County will then reimburse the City for its flight and staffing costs.

“Expanding access to night-flying helicopters is our newest tool to protect residents and keep our region on the cutting edge of public safety,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “This agreement worked out with Mayor Faulconer is the latest example of how the County and the City of San Diego are working tirelessly and cooperatively to improve emergency response capabilities before disaster strikes.”

The night-flying agreement has been in effect since Dec. 1 and expires June 30, 2016, with five one-year optional extensions to be mutually agreed upon by both the City and County. The use of the City’s Bell 212 and Bell 412EP helicopters will be reimbursed at a rate of $3,721 and $5,027, respectively, per flight hour.

“When a wildfire comes we have to be focused on results and saving lives, not jurisdictional boundaries drawn on a map,” Mayor Faulconer said. “That’s why the City and County are embarking on a new level of cooperation to make sure our region is as prepared as possible for whatever comes our way. We’re all in this together. I want to thank the County supervisors for their great teamwork.”

Since the devastating 2003 and 2007 wildfires, great strides have been made by the region’s firefighting agencies to work more collaboratively and make significant operational changes aimed at bolstering fire protection.

For example, the County has spent more than $317 million since 2003 on improvements, including funds to develop a more nimble and professionally trained firefighting force and technology improvements like the Next Generation Incident Command System and a regional emergency app.

During the same period, the City has purchased new fire apparatus and built a reserve fleet of 32 apparatus for surge capacity. In addition, the City now has more than 1,500 Community Emergency Response Team volunteers trained to assist as disaster service workers in the event of a large wildfire.

“Just as they did during the May wildfires, our night-flying helicopters and crews have time and again proved their value as a critical regional resource to combat wildfires and perform life-saving rescue and medical missions,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Javier Mainar. “With this cooperative agreement, we will be in a position to make a difference the next time we’re needed anywhere in our county.”

Washington | Seattle Fire Chief Gregory M. Dean retires


Today marks the last day of Fire Chief Gregory M. Dean’s 44 year career.  Chief Dean has been a strong leader in the Seattle Fire Department, serving as Chief for the past 10 years. He was skillful at finding common ground and forging long term relationships. Through his service, he has helped build a successful partnership between the firefighters and the community.  

Chief Dean entered the Department in 1970 as a Trainee Firefighter.  He has risen through the ranks serving as Firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief, Deputy Chief, and Assistant Chief.  During his tenure in the Department, Chief Dean has also served in the following management positions:   Fire Marshal, Assistant Chief of Administration, Deputy Chief of Personnel, and Deputy Chief of Support Services.

Chief Dean was selected as Chief Officer of the Year for 2002.  Mayor Paul Schell recognized his outstanding work in the Department as the Interim Fire Chief and proclaimed July 23, 2001 as Gregory Dean Day. In October of 2001, the Seattle Management Association named him Manager of the Year.  In addition, he’s been nominated numerous times for Seattle Works! Awards and received a Seattle Management Association Award in 2001.

The Chief served on the Washington State Fire Protection Policy Board, the Medic One Foundation Board, the International Association of Fire Chiefs Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee and was a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Metro Division. He  also served as Vice President of the King County Fire Chiefs Association and a Board member of the Valley School.

Chief Dean was born and raised in Seattle and is a graduate of Franklin High School.  He received his degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.  He has a daughter named Morgan.

Today Mayor Ed Murray appointed Michael E. Walsh to fill the position of interim Chief.  Chief Walsh retired in January 2014 as Assistant Chief of operations with 40 years of service.

California | LAFD and ATF determine Da Vinci apartment complex fire cause as arson


The fire at 900 West Temple Street destroyed the seven-story complex under construction, damaged a nearby high-rise structures and the Harbor (110) Freeway.  

Investigators recovered sufficient evidence to eliminate all known potential accidental causes and determine the fire was intentionally set.  The fire caused an estimated $20 million to $30 million in damage to the Da Vinci Apartments. Total damage estimates to nearby businesses and Caltrans property remain undetermined at this time.

Specific information regarding the fire and investigative efforts will not be released at this time, as the criminal investigation is ongoing.

Investigators from ATF’s NRT and the LAFD sifted through 75,000 square feet of debris, took photographs, recovered potential evidence from the scene for analysis by the ATF’s National Laboratory and conducted many interviews throughout the community. The NRT’s specialized resources include a canine team, certified fire investigators, forensic chemist, electrical and fire protection engineers, and additional specialists.

This NRT activation was the fourth this fiscal year and 763rd since the 1978 inception of the program. The team finished combing through the debris on Wednesday, and will continue to follow up on leads and analyze evidence recovered at the scene.

“The work at the crime scene is finished, however our investigation is not over,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino “ATF will continue to work together with our state and local partners to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice.”

“We appreciate the NRT’s response and assistance with this large and complex investigation,” said Battalion Chief Robert Nelson, head of the LAFD’s Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section. “We continue to work with the ATF, LAPD and other law enforcement agencies to vigorously pursue this investigation. Arson is a serious crime and we will use all of our available resources to arrest and prosecute any individuals involved in any arson fire in Los Angeles.”

NRT team supervisor Dan Heenan said “Without the cooperative effort of ATF and LAFD, we could not have completed the crime scene work in the time frame we did. It’s not often you can bring this many people together from around the United States to work towards a common goal and have the mission completed in such a short time frame. I’ve been impressed with the professionalism of all the agencies involved.”

Investigators continue to seek information on two potential witnesses seen in video footage taken the morning of December 8th.

These two individuals are not considered suspects or persons of interest. Investigators have identified them as being in the area of the fire, and merely wish to interview them.

The public is encouraged to view the video and images via: LAFD.ORG/NEWS

Anyone with information about this fire is urged to contact the LAFD Arson Section directly at (213) 893-9850. More information about the LAFD can be found at

Hawaii | Dept of Health installs air quality monitors around Kilauea lava flow

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has installed three temporary particulate monitors to measure and inform nearby residents on the Big Island of Hawaii of the air quality levels from the lava flow from Kilauea volcano.

Two monitors are currently located in Pahoa and one in Leilani Estates. These monitors may be relocated or additional monitors installed as the lava flow moves or additional breakouts occur.

The monitoring data and advisories may be viewed at: or

The University of Hawaii, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology has also developed a model to forecast the lava flow smoke in Puna. The smoke model can be viewed at:

“Our monitoring data and smoke model will measure and predict air quality, but this information is no substitute for good judgment. People should consider for themselves how sensitive they are to smoke exposure and act accordingly, said Gary Gill, deputy director of Environmental Health.

“The smoke impact at any place or time may change due to unpredictable wind and weather conditions.”

DOH recommends that residents in smoke affected areas avoid outdoor activities or physical exertion. People with respiratory illness or heart disease, older adults and children are urged to avoid smoke exposure. Smoke may worsen symptoms for individuals who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Individuals that have these conditions should keep their medication refilled and use daily (controller) medication as prescribed. Anyone who feels they may need medication or medical attention should contact their physician.

Due to the unpredictable nature of the lava flow and smoke conditions, residents and visitors are advised to listen to the Hawaii County Civil Defense updates and advisories.

Be well. Practice big medicine.