MA Ebola Virus Monitoring Project

Dates: 2015-2016

State: Massachusetts

Client(s): MA Departnment of Public Health

Service: Health Care & Public Health Planning

Technical Expertise: State and Local Public Health, Emergency Preparedness and Response

The 2014 Ebola epidemic was the largest in history, primarily affecting the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Over the course of more than 1.5 years (from March 2014 – December 2015), the epidemic resulted in more than 28,000 cases of illness (suspected, probable, and confirmed) and more than 11,000 deaths.

The 2014 epidemic was unique not only because it occurred in a region of Africa that had never before experienced Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), but also because transmission also occurred in regions outside Africa entirely. The United States experienced two imported cases (including one death), and two locally acquired cases in healthcare workers treating these cases. In response, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Customs and Border Protection developed and implemented an enhanced entry screening program for all U.S.-bound travelers who had been in Ebola-affected West Africa. Travelers arriving from the region were classified according to risk levels based on their likelihood of exposure to the Ebola virus, with state and local health departments and responsible for monitoring traveler movement and health status to ensure that they remained symptom free, were able to access care if they needed it, and to reduce risk of exposure to the public.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the travel destination for a large proportion of travelers from Ebola-affected West Africa during the 2014 Ebola epidemic. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health chose JSI to manage the Ebola Virus Monitoring Project by providing active monitoring of low risk travelers to the Commonwealth. JSI staff contacted, or worked with local health departments, to contact each traveler every day for 21 days since their last potential exposure to EVD (the incubation period for EVD). JSI coordinated with other state health departments for travelers that visited other states during their monitoring period. In all, JSI monitored 315 travelers from July 2015 - January 2016.