Bringing together government, health and community leaders, Councilwoman Debi Rose (49th District, Staten Island) hosted an Ebola summit Saturday afternoon at IS 49 in Staten Island to educate and reassure New Yorkers about the virus that has caused widespread concern in the city.
“As the city Health Department said today at the summit, the greatest threat to public health is fear and misinformation,” said Councilwoman Debi Rose. “I convened this summit to calm unnecessary fears, as well as to address issues of discrimination against or stigmatization of the West African community.”
“In a city of 8 million people, we currently have one case of Ebola in New York City,” the councilwoman said in her opening remarks. “Having spoken to city health officials and hospitals in the weeks leading up to this case, I am assured that they are prepared to isolate and treat patients.”
The Councilwoman also reminded those in attendance to keep perspective.
“Remember, you have a much greater chance of dying of the flu than you have of ever catching Ebola. Prior to the case of Dr. Craig Spencer in Manhattan, all seven Americans who had contracted Ebola (five abroad, two in the United States) have been treated and are doing well -- that's a 100 percent survival rate. Meanwhile, thousands of Americans die from influenza every year. If you're concerned about your health, get a flu shot.”
Those comments were echoed by Dr. Theodore Maniatis, medical director of Staten Island University Hospital.
“Regardless of what happens with Ebola this winter, I can assure you, more Americans will die from influenza than Ebola,” he said. “It's not even close.”
Dr. Maniatis also spoke about SIUH's preparations for possible cases. He said more than 250 of his staff had been trained in the use of protective gear. In recent weeks, SIUH has seen two patients who had symptoms of Ebola but were then found not to have the disease. In those cases, hospital staff followed protocol and immediately isolated the patients and treated them using protective gear.
Dr. Aletha Maybanks, assistant commissioner of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, gave an updated presentation on the Ebola virus, discussing not only its symptoms and how it is spread but also the city's preparations for handling any future cases.
Among the roughly 20 panelists presenting and answering audience questions were Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the mayor's Office of Immigrant Services; Gerard McCarty, director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Office of Emergency Management; Kevin Moran, executive director of the Division of Operations of the city's Department of Education; Rachel Sulaymanov, director of intergovernmental affairs for the city's Office of Emergency Management; and Kim Greene-Konneh, vice consul to the Liberian Consulate.
The summit also focused on issues of grief among West Africans who have lost family and friends to Ebola, and issues of discrimination and stigmatization.
“I admonish any who would ostracize a child or adult from West Africa, and I can help any victims of job discrimination get legal advice,” said Councilwoman Rose. “No American, especially children, should be ashamed of his or her heritage.”
The summit was held in collaboration with the African Ebola Crisis Committee.
For additional information about the virus, New Yorkers should visit www.nyc.gov/health. For information about community resources available, please call the office of Councilwoman Rose at 718-556-7370.