Online Program

Local Ebola Virus Disease Medical Spokesperson: The Need for Effective Communication and A Good Night's Sleep

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 9:30 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.

Marguerite Erme, DO, MPH, Summit County Public Health, Akron, OH
In October 2014, an Ebola Virus Disease-related incident thrust Summit County, Ohio into the national spotlight. A Dallas health care worker had spent almost four days in Summit County prior to being diagnosed with Ebola Virus Disease. Summit County Public Health activated its internal Incident Command System structure and began contact identification, investigation, and monitoring. Public information was a key component of the response and the role of the medical spokesperson was vital in conveying accurate and timely medical and response information.  Since Ebola had had never been treated in the United States before August 2014, there was fluidity about contact classification, appropriate monitoring, risk transmission, environmental issues, personal protective equipment, medical transport, and hospital preparedness. Added challenges were issues of privacy and confidentiality, isolation and quarantine legality, governmental and political concerns.  The medical spokesperson needed to be adept at explaining the volatile nature of the disease and investigation concerns but also able to handle local and national media, community partners and the public. Lessons learned included the need for effective handling of changing information, difficulties with communicating risk, and the need for a good night’s sleep.

Learning Areas:

Administration, management, leadership
Communication and informatics
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control

Learning Objectives:
Describe the challenges of being a medical spokesperson for a new communicable disease List ways to improve communication to the public about the changing nature of an incident

Keyword(s): Communication, Emergency Preparedness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a BS in microbiology, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, and a Master of Public Health. I have been Medical Director for Summit County (OH) Public Health since 2011 and have 18 years experience in communicable disease control/epidemiology and 15 years experience in emergency preparedenss. I served as the medical spokesperson for Summit County Public Health for the Ebola contact incident in October 2014.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.