October 22, 2014

Eli Waller’s Death Prompts County and Municipal Efforts

The office of Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes has released a statement offering support and coordination in response to infectious disease outbreaks such as the Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) that killed four-year-old Eli Waller.

In that instance, the Mercer County Division of Public Health (MCDPH) served as a resource to Hamilton health officials and its members are available to advise municipalities across the county.

The statement from Mr. Hughes assures residents that “county government is providing whatever resources it can to support the response to recent infectious disease outbreaks whose impacts have been felt locally.”

As one of 21 designated agencies for the New Jersey Local Information Network Communication System (LINCS), the MCDPH is “in regular communication with state and local health officials regarding Ebola, Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), and any other public health threats that might occur. Information is shared on a daily basis.

“We’re concerned but we’re on top of it,” said Mr. Hughes. “Our public health officer and her staff are in daily contact with other jurisdictions to ensure that the flow of information is maintained, and that our municipalities receive the support they need in the form of human resources, materials, and supplies.”

As the statement points out, Mercer County does not have primary authority over public health matters. That authority lies with the State Department of Health under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The county’s main roles involve communication, support, and coordination,” Mr. Hughes clarified.

Representatives of local hospitals, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), municipal health offices, emergency management, emergency communications, and universities and colleges, as well as epidemiologists from the New Jersey Department of Health, met with the Mercer County health officer in late August to raise awareness and ensure countywide communication among first responders with respect to the Ebola virus.

As a result, EMS dispatch protocols were altered to screen for cases that fit the profile of someone infected with Ebola so first responders could take necessary precautions and the receiving emergency department could be notified. In addition, local police chiefs and emergency management coordinators were advised to meet directly with their health officers to discuss their response protocols.

In addition, said Mr. Hughes, there are plans to bring key stakeholders from throughout the county together again next week to share the most recent information and discuss future plans.

The release goes on to say that the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management is ready to support plans by local municipalities and other agencies through the coordination of additional resources, if necessary.

Princeton Public Schools

Health officials in Mercer County also have been focusing on EV-D68,confirmed in more than 40 states. As of Oct. 15, New Jersey had a total of 17 confirmed cases in nine counties, including Mercer.

According to the County Executive, Mercer County schools have cleaning protocols in place to provide safe environments.

Princeton’s Public Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser worked in coordination with Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane and the District’s Director of Plant Operations Gary Weisman. “We talked about cleaning protocols already in place to make sure that they were up-to-date with the viruses that we are now hearing about in the national news such as EV-D68, said Mr. Grosser.

Mr. Cochrane sent a letter to parents to inform them of what was being done. “I take my hat off to Superintendent Cochrane for being pro-active on this,” said Mr. Grosser, who pointed out that school districts in the Northeast, which open for the fall semester in September, were at an advantage with respect to controlling the spread of the virus compared to districts in the Midwest, where schools open in mid-August.

“With any new infectious disease we want to check that the cleaning materials being uses are appropriate for such infectious diseases. It’s routine for the Health Department to monitor sickness in the schools and check for clusters. There haven’t been any such clusters in the Princeton Public Schools, so this letter to parents, on which the department was consulted, was a proactive step to inform parents about what is being done in the schools and to advise them as to what they can do,” he said.

Yesterday, Hamilton Township officials announced EV-D68 negative test results for a second student at the Yardville Elementary School attended by Eli Waller.

The CDControl reports that cases in New Jersey are decreasing.

For more information about Ebola and EV-D68, visit the CDC website: www.cdc.gov/ and the New Jersey Department of Health website: www.state.nj.us/health.