What is the CDC’s role in the fight against Ebola?

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The Ebola epidemic in Africa and fears of it spreading in the U.S. have turned the nation’s attention to the federal government’s front-line public health agency: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But as with Ebola itself, there is much confusion about the role of the CDC and what it can and cannot do to prevent and contain the spread of disease.

The agency has broad authority under federal law, but defers to or partners with state and local health agencies in most cases.

Julie Rovner answers some common questions. 

Q: What is the CDC?

Formally renamed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1992 to reflect its broader scope (previously it was just the Centers for Disease Control), the Atlanta-based CDC is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to promote health and prevent disease, injury and premature death. CDC’s most recent budget is just under $7 billion.

Q: What is CDC’S role in combating Ebola?          

CDC personnel have been working on the ground in West Africa to try to stop the spread of Ebola since the spring, when cases began to mount. CDC Director Thomas Frieden told a congressional hearing Thursday that the agency currently has 139 staffers in West Africa, and that more than 1,000 workers have “provided logistics, staffing, communication, analytics, management and other support functions.”

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Global health news – October 20th

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Globe floating in air

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Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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Poll: Many unaware how Ebola is spread

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By Phil Galewitz
KHN / OCTOBER 16TH, 2014

A new survey finds the public has a lot to learn about how the Ebola virus is transmitted, which could help explain the growing fears of the disease.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that while nearly all adults (97 percent) know a person can become infected through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of someone who is sick with Ebola, there are still misconceptions. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

One third of respondents are unaware they cannot become infected through the air. About 45 percent are unaware they cannot contract Ebola by shaking hands with someone who has been exposed to the virus but who does not have symptoms.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 8.13.55 AM

And only slightly more than a third (36 percent) of respondents know that a person must be showing Ebola symptoms to transmit the infection, the poll found.

The survey, which was fielded after a Liberian man was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, and remained in the field after a nurse who helped care for him contracted the disease, finds most Americans say they trust local, state, and federal health authorities to contain the disease in the U.S.

The public was near evenly split on the federal government’s response to the crisis. About 45 percent said the government was doing enough to fight the disease in Africa and 48 percent said it was doing enough to protect Americans.

The telephone poll of 1,503 adults was conducted from October 8-14 and has a margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Health news headlines – October 18th

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By PHenry via Wikipedia CC

By PHenry via Wikipedia CC

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Global health news – October 18th

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Globe floating in air

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Inside a high-level biocontainment unit

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The United States Centers for Disease Control commissioned The Nebraska Medical Center biocontainment unit in 2005.

It was designed to provide the first line of treatment for people affected by bio terrorism or extremely infectious naturally occurring diseases. It’s the only non-governmental facility of its kind in the U.S.

The staff, all receive specialized training and participate in drills throughout the year. In a recent drill, the staff practiced dressing in spacesuit-like personal protection suits.

The suits provide each staff member the ability to care for an infected patient without exposing themselves. They also practice transporting an infected patient in a “bio pod” into a specially designed room inside the biocontainment unit.

The entire unit is specially isolated from the rest of the hospital, using its own ventilation system and security access.

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What is Ebola contact tracing? CDC video explains

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Contact tracing is finding everyone who comes in direct contact with a sick Ebola patient. Contacts are watched for signs of illness for 21 days from the last day they came in contact with the Ebola patient.

If the contact develops a fever or other Ebola symptoms, they are immediately isolated, tested, provided care, and the cycle starts again – all of the new patient’s contacts are found and watched for 21 days.

Contact tracing finds new cases quickly so they can be isolated, stopping further spread of Ebola.

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What to drink? Recommendations for health beverage choices.

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Beverage choices contribute significantly to dietary and caloric intake in the United States.

Choosing healthy beverages and other lower-calorie options, instead of high-calorie, sugar-sweetened beverages, has great potential to help Americans reduce caloric intake, improve diet quality, and reduce their risk for obesity.

Healthy Eating Research convened an expert advisory panel to develop Recommendations for Healthier Beverages.

The panel reviewed and analyzed data from scientific bodies, national organizations, public health organizations and the beverage industry to come up with its age-based recommendations.

Schools, child-care centers, hospitals, governments, and businesses can use the guidelines to provide children and families with healthy beverage choices.sinesses can use the guidelines to provide children and families with healthy beverage choices.

To read and download the guidelines, go here.

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The Exercise Cost of Soda and Juice – The Atlantic

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Soda Pop TopWhat if nutrition labels told people exactly what calories meant, in practical terms? A bottle of Coke could dole out specific exercise requirements. The calories herein, it might say, are the equivalent of a 50-minute jog. The decision to drink the Coke then becomes, would you rather spend the evening on a treadmill, or just not drink the soda?

via The Exercise Cost of Soda and Juice – The Atlantic.

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As Ebola lapses get spotlight in Texas, Seattle union nurses say they’re unprepared – Puget Sound Business Journal

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Ebola NIAID

An electron micrograph scan shows the Ebola virus emerging from an infected cell. (NIAID/NIH)

Workers with Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW say they’re worried they lack training in the proper procedures for cleaning rooms to manage Ebola patients.

Nurses and housekeepers at some hospitals say this reduces front-line defense against infectious diseases.

via As Ebola lapses get spotlight in Texas, Seattle union nurses say they’re unprepared – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Get your flu shot now, state health officials say

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Flu virus - courtesy of NAIAD

Flu virus – courtesy of NAIAD

Flu can be serious and deadly; get vaccinated now before people are sick

 Flu season is upon us and although state health officials don’t know exactly when the flu will strike, how serious it will be or how long the season will last, they do know that it spreads every year and now is the time to get vaccinated against this serious, sometimes deadly virus.

 “The first and most important thing you can do to protect yourself from flu is to get vaccinated every year,” says State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Flu vaccine is available now in most provider offices and pharmacies across the state and getting it now will provide protection throughout the season. It’s not too early.” Continue reading

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Even with insurance, language barriers could undermine Asian Americans’ access to care

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Efforts to enroll Asian Americans in the health law’s marketplace plans have generally been touted as a success, but because coverage details are provided primarily in English or Spanish, those who depend on their native languages have encountered roadblocks as they try to use this new insurance.

About 35 percent of Asian Americans have limited English proficiency, according to a September report from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

The issue of language access gained attention last summer when the Obama administration notified thousands of people that their health insurance subsidies were at risk unless they updated their citizenship documentation because information on their initial applications could not be verified.

Advocates said many of those in jeopardy did not speak English well and did not understand the paperwork they received.

If people who face English language challenges don’t understand their coverage, maneuvering the health care system could prove unwieldy.

This example is not an isolated one.

Asian Americans, with limited English who enrolled in plans with the help of bilingual navigators and in-person assisters, are now trying to understand a slew of documents – things like explanations of benefits packages or notifications about paperwork deadlines – that often are not translated. Continue reading

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