- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday health officials will monitor people returning to the state from areas of West Africa affected by the Ebola virus and those who may have been in contact with an Ebola patient.

“These new protocols will help ensure the safety of those potentially exposed to Ebola, and the safety of Montanans as a whole,” Bullock said in a news release.

Currently five people in Montana are being monitored for the virus, said Tim Crowe, spokesman for the state’s Disaster and Emergency Services. Crowe said he couldn’t disclose where in Montana the five people live. Two others have completed the monitoring process with no signs of the virus, he said.

The procedures include a twice-a-day review of symptoms for 21 days. Those being monitored must disclose their plans for work, travel or visiting public places to determine whether those activities will be allowed. The costs to the state for monitoring are minimal, and the money for the effort is coming from the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ budget, Crowe said.

No automatic quarantines will be mandated in the state, Bullock’s spokesman, Mike Wessler, said. People infected with Ebola are not contagious until they have symptoms. The virus is not spread through casual contact.

If anyone is found to have Ebola, full medical treatment would begin immediately, Crowe said. He said he couldn’t comment on whether anyone found to have the virus would be quarantined at that point, saying each case is individual.

“If anyone should develop any symptoms, the health department will focus on patient safety, medical-provider safety and public safety throughout the course of treatment,” Crowe said.

Governors in New Jersey and New York have been criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines for people arriving from West African countries where the outbreak has sickened more than 13,000 people and killed nearly 5,000.

Earlier this month, Bullock appointed a team to coordinate Ebola-preparedness activities. It’s headed by Major General Matt Quinn, who oversees emergency preparedness for the state, and includes representatives from the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs.

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