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Massachusetts Officials Seek To Reassure Public After Ebola Scares

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he received a thorough briefing this morning on the state’s preparations for Ebola.  At a news conference, the governor stressed there are no cases in the state, and he voiced confidence in the state’s  readiness to deal with infectious diseases.     

   Gov. Patrick sought to tamp down public concerns following two Ebola scares over the weekend. First responders in full hazmat suits surrounded an ambulance in a suburban Boston hospital parking lot after a patient arrived Sunday with a high fever. The following day emergency crews, again in full protective gear, swarmed a plane at Logan Airport after it arrived from the Middle East with five ill people on board.

   The concerns about Ebola in those cases and others that Patrick said had received no publicity were unfounded.

    "I want to make clear there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Massachusetts," Patrick said.

    The governor spoke at Logan Airport where he was joined by about a dozen public health and public safety officials and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.

    He said officials are in constant communication over how to recognize Ebola symptoms and what steps to take to prevent the spread of the often-fatal disease if a case should occur in Massachusetts.

     " There is not a cause for alarm," said Patrick.

    Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said her office has been in constant contact with hospitals, community health centers and ambulance companies since August, when the Ebola outbreak began in Africa.

   " We are encouraging our facilities to make sure good infection control is in place."

    The head of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Public Safety Undersecretary Kurt Schwartz announced plans to hold a conference call later this week with elected officials across the state and a follow-up meeting with local police and fire chiefs.

   " To ensure we are consistent across the state to ensure an effective, but reasonable response to people who may present Ebola-like symptoms."

   Logan Airport is not one of the five U.S. airports where passengers arriving from West Africa are being automatically screened for Ebola symptoms.  Logan Airport Fire Chief Robert Donahue said the facility is following an emergency response plan put in place following 9-11 to thwart a possible bio-terrorist attack.

   Also at the news conference, infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Madoff stressed an Ebola outbreak in Massachusetts is highly unlikely.

  " Ebola is not spread through the air. It is not spread by casual contact or being nearby someone with the disease."

   Officials said there is no need to stay off public transit, or avoid large crowd events.

    Audio from the news conference is courtesy New England Cable News.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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