DHMH protocols, partnerships help guard Maryland’s public health

Department has taken steps to raise awareness about Ebola among partners


Baltimore, MD (October 2, 2014) – Working to guard the public health of the residents of Maryland from infectious disease is one of the central roles of the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DHMH). As a result, DHMH continually prepares for and responds to diseases that could affect Marylanders – such as the Ebola virus disease that has affected  many lives on the African continent and has been diagnosed in a patient in Texas.

“To be clear, Maryland has not had a diagnosed case of Ebola. But part of being the state health department entails preparing for the possibility of such an infection occurring within Maryland,” said DHMH Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein. “DHMH continually is monitoring communicable disease trends both within and outside Maryland. We have a state-of-the art lab testing facility and time-proven protocols and controls that involve working with our medical partners in the private sector, like hospitals and academic research institutions.”

DHMH has established standards to respond to reports of infectious diseases in Maryland and to prevent their transmission. Health care providers are required by law to report any cases of illness that might pose a risk to public health. These include Ebola Virus Disease, MERS-CoV, measles, polio, tuberculosis, pandemic influenza and about 100 other diseases.

DHMH works in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other states, organizations and programs as part of the planning process for response to outbreaks of illness. Maryland is part of the Emerging Infections Program, a national resource for surveillance, prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases. Hospitals throughout Maryland are skilled in surveillance and infection control procedures. All-hazards public health emergency planning has established partnerships among health care and emergency response agencies.

In summary, DHMH has taken these steps:

1.      Surveillance/Disease Reporting –Ebola is a reportable condition. Providers and labs are required to report all suspected cases immediately.

2.      24/7 Possible Case Investigation and Response – DHMH and local health departments have  a 24/7 system to respond to investigate possible Ebola cases and to monitor that appropriate isolation is in place while an assessment is underway.

3.      Provision of Infection Prevention Guidance to Healthcare Providers – Guidance, including how to properly isolate a suspected patient and an appropriate personal protective equipment for health care workers and others has been disseminated to:

    • hospital emergency departments;
    • hospital infection prevention officials;
    • nursing homes/long-term care facilities;
    • clinical laboratories; and
    • general healthcare providers


4.      Development of Ebola Lab Testing Capacity – DHMH Laboratories Administration has the capacity to test for Ebola.

           5.      Coordination/communication with other states and CDC – DHMH participates in regular Ebola-related calls and webinars with other states and with CDC (including the Dulles/BWI CDC Quarantine Station) to ensure up-to-date and coordinated responses.

CDC has Ebola information available online at www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html. To learn more about reportable illnesses in Maryland at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/SitePages/what-to-report.aspx.