Gov. Rick Scott calls on Feds to implement stricter Ebola monitoring for civilians returning from West Africa

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Now that a fourth documented case of Ebola has been confirmed in the United States, Florida Governor Rick Scott is criticizing the federal government for not taking stern enough precautions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

“The news of Dr. Spencer testing positive for Ebola after returning to the US last week from treating Ebola patients makes it clear that the CDC and federal government must do more to protect healthcare workers around the world and our citizens here at home,” Scott said in a statement.

His response comes as Dr. Craig Spencer tested positive for Ebola after returning to New York following a volunteer mission with Doctors without Borders in Guinea last week where he treated patients.

Spencer did not exhibit any signs of the virus upon departure from Guinea. He then departed Brussels, Beligium on a flight back to John F. Kennedy International airport on October 12. Spencer still did not exhibit any symptoms, but was self-monitoring himself for elevated body temperature and any symptoms. The symptoms appeared Thursday morning last week. Because Spencer is a civilian and volunteered for service in West Africa where the virus is most prevalent, he is not subject to Department of Defense protocol for mandatory monitoring.

“The Department of Defense’s guidance for US military members who are deployed to fight Ebola in Africa requires even those at low risk of exposure to be monitored by healthcare professionals with twice daily checkups for 21 days after they return home. Returning military members with a high-risk of exposure are required to be monitored under quarantine for 21 days,” Scott said. “This 21-day period of care for military men and women allows them to be closely monitored after they have been in contact with Ebola. It is common sense for the federal government to standardize this protocol for all volunteers and personnel in Ebola-infected areas. The federal government must provide the same level of precautionary care for volunteer healthcare workers, like Dr. Spencer, and federal non-military personnel, including the CDC, as they do for the US military. They are all on the frontlines of the fight against Ebola, and they are all expected to return to the US.”

Spencer’s case is the first documented in New York. The doctor has been quarantined for treatment as have three individuals who were in contact with him after he started exhibiting symptoms.

Officials are evaluating other potential contamination risks including the New York Subway he rode before exhibiting symptoms and a bowling alley. The Subway has been declared safe and the bowling alley will reopen after the bar is sanitized. Ebola cannot be spread until an infected person begins exhibiting symptoms.

“Ensuring that all workers abroad are required to take the same safeguards and precautions as our US military personnel will not only provide an equal level of care for these selfless healthcare workers, it will also better protect all our citizens here in Florida and across the country from any threat of this deadly disease,” Scott said.

States nationwide are working to take individual precautions against Ebola. Scott has already turned his eye toward preparedness in Florida. During a press conference earlier this week, Scott said 55 hospitals statewide are already prepared to handle a case and equipment is being purchased just in case there is an outbreak.

“We are glad that we still do not have a case of Ebola here in Florida, and we hope we never do, but we must do everything we can to prepare to combat this disease – and urge the federal government to do everything in their power to stay ahead of its spread and not fall behind, as the CDC has already admitted happened to them with the fatal case in Dallas,” Scott said.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.