- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s top health official said Thursday that the state is creating a statewide network linking health workers and facilities that may have to deal with Ebola. Officials also are in touch with U.S. Customs to get a better idea of whether residents or visitors have recently traveled in West Africa.

Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton also said the Medical University of South Carolina has agreed to provide ongoing care for any Ebola patients in the state. She expects trauma centers in Greenville and Columbia to announce in the coming days that they will also provide such care.

A look at the latest developments as South Carolina prepares to deal with any potential Ebola cases:

- Keeping in Touch

The DHEC board issued a public health order establishing a network directing essential emails and other communications to a database of people and facilities that will be at the center of dealing with any Ebola cases. Templeton said it’s the first time such a network has been set up in the state.

- Longer Term Care

MUSC in Charleston will offer longer-term care for those diagnosed with Ebola. Dr. Danielle Scheurer, the hospital’s chief quality officer, says those treating such patients will be intensive care unit doctors and nurses who volunteer. The hospital said nobody will be required to work with Ebola patients if they don’t want to.

- Where People Would Be Treated

“If we have a suspect a case, we will make that decision based on where that person is, the capabilities of the hospital and the safety of the public as to whether or not to transport,” Templeton said. She said DHEC has been in contact with all hospitals in the state that have identified areas where patients could be isolated.

- Working With Customs

The state, with the help of the state’s congressional delegation, has been in contact with U.S. Customs to better track state residents or visitors who have been in West Africa. Templeton said when people sign a customs declaration they must put down where they are going. “Some people may not tell the truth, and some people may change their travel plans. But more information is better as we determine the level of threat to South Carolina,” she said.

- Incoming Vessels

A ship whose last port of call was in West Africa arrived in Charleston over Labor Day, and another is due next week. Templeton said tracking ships is easier than travelers because manifests show where they are from and there is information about the crew. Vessels can’t dock unless they are brought in by a harbor pilot. Templeton said the state is working closely with the Charleston harbor pilots who can also alert officials if there is an illness aboard a vessel.

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