Statement on Maine’s Preparedness Regarding Communicable Diseases

October 16, 2014

For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 16, 2014
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage has issued a statement regarding the state’s monitoring and response systems for communicable diseases.

“Maine is part of the global community and our beautiful state attracts people from all over the world,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “This brings many good things to our shores. However, it also raises the occasional risk of certain challenges, in this case, the possibility of a traveler unintentionally and unknowingly carrying an infectious disease. This risk is always present, so the state maintains and continuously updates its infectious disease response plan. The safety of our citizens is our number one priority.”

Governor LePage continued, “The Maine CDC has elevated its monitoring in light of the recent Ebola developments in Texas and is in constant touch with its federal counterparts. We have taken additional steps to ensure to the best of our ability that any suspected cases in Maine will be reported immediately and effective action taken to the extent the law allows to minimize all risk to the public health and safety.”

The Governor has directed an interagency group meet to ensure efficient and coordinated communication throughout any potential outbreak of infectious disease that threatens public health and safety. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the lead agency of this group, collaborating closely with the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management (DVEM) and other state agencies. The interagency group will ensure close and sustained communication and coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal agencies including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and also the appropriate Canadian authorities.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has activated necessary components of its Incident Command System (ICS) in order to centrally manage planning and response activities related to Ebola. Maine CDC is working in conjunction with the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to plan for the identification and rapid activation of additional support resources should a public health emergency arise.

Maine CDC has been and remains in direct communication with various health professionals in the field and answering their questions about symptoms. Its infectious disease epidemiology team is ensuring that the most up-to-date protocols are strictly followed by local and state health officials to manage and contain any suspected or confirmed cases. A mandatory reporting system for infectious disease is already in place with an established protocol.

Maine CDC continues to monitor the situation and will provide updates or changes in protocol or disease status to healthcare workers and first responders in the field. Maine CDC’s infectious disease epidemiology team is available 24 hours a day to take diseases reports and respond to healthcare workers’ questions. Maine CDC also provides health alerts to its partners through the Health Alert Network (HAN).

Taking the travel history of patients will be a key component of the intake protocol for any individual presenting symptoms. Because this is also flu season, many patients present themselves at healthcare providers with flu-like symptoms similar to the symptoms of the Ebola virus; therefore, an understanding of recent travel will help healthcare providers screen patients.

If any suspected cases present in Maine, Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of Maine CDC, will immediately report the relevant information to the fullest extent allowed by law to the Governor and DHHS and DVEM Commissioners and an investigative team will consult with the relevant local health provider on appropriate response steps.