Health officials are working on a plan to monitor every person who returns to Maryland from countries stricken by Ebola, but the extent of the monitoring will depend on individual circumstances, the state's health secretary said Wednesday.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein said the state hasn't yet worked out the specifics of how it will monitor everyone who arrives from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has directed Maryland and five other states to keep tabs on all such travelers for 21 days until the outbreak in West Africa is controlled. Those states represent 70 percent of people arriving from the three countries.
The CDC isn't mandating that everyone be monitored the same way, Sharfstein said.
"We want to develop an approach that recognizes that some people who come from West Africa are at higher risk than others,'' Sharfstein said. "Not everybody's the same. Some may require different monitoring than others.''
Some people returning from West Africa may have been working in clinics with Ebola patients. Others, he said, may not have been exposed to the virus at all.
The monitoring could take the form of people self-reporting their body temperature to the health department, or the state could take a more active role as needed, Sharfstein said. People who have a low-grade fever but no other symptoms may be candidates for closer monitoring, he said.
The CDC said people arriving from West Africa will receive "care kits'' that include thermometers and that temperatures must be reported to health officials at least once per day.
The virus has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa. Two American nurses remain hospitalized after catching Ebola from a Liberian man who died at a Dallas hospital.