To Our Valued Clients and Families:
Growing concern about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa may understandably raise apprehensions among recipients of our home care services, given that our Home Care Aides virtually all come from African nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the West African outbreak has reached the proportions of an international health emergency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that the first U.S. case of the disease was diagnosed in Dallas, Texas on September 30, 2014. The purpose of this letter is to provide information about how our company is responding to this issue.
At this writing, the Ebolavirus epidemic involves the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Approximately 60% of our Home Care Aides are of Ghanian origin and 30% are Sierra Leonian; the rest are from various other countries, including the U.S. Because the risk of being exposed to Ebolavirus in the United States is at this point virtually nil, the only potential threat to either our employees or clients arises from travel to the affected countries. Given our demographic, it is specifically travel to Sierra Leone that might raise concern.
Information on the symptoms and transmissibility of Ebola has now been widely publicized, but worth reviewing briefly. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the disease is spread not through “casual contact” but through contact with body fluids including sweat, urine, saliva, blood, stool and secretions. Symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headaches and sore throat. Vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired organ function and bleeding can ensue. Symptoms may become manifest anywhere from two to 21 days following blood or body fluid exposure to an infected individual. Transmission only occurs during symptomatic illness, not during this period of incubation.
Ready Hands has taken the following steps to date. In addition, we will monitor ongoing developments and implement whatever policies are necessary and legal to protect the safety of our aides and our clients.
- We are strongly communicating to all our aides the CDC warnings against travel to affected countries. Fortunately, our Sierra Leonian employees are acutely aware of the situation, for obvious reasons. Some have already cancelled future travel plans. The actions of several airlines to curtail flights in and out of the affected countries will also be a deterrent to travel. For those who do travel to affected countries, airport screening and other steps, in place now or being contemplated, will help by reducing the chances of an infected individual boarding a return flight.
- For all our existing aides, any interruption of their employment due to travel is recorded in our office. Ready Hands understands that none of our clients would be comfortable to discover that their personal care is being performed by someone who has travelled to an affected country within the preceding three weeks. We will never knowingly assign such an aide to provide care for a client.
- Our Hiring Manager has been instructed to inquire about recent travel history whenever interviewing a home care employment applicant. We strongly adhere to non-discriminatory hiring practices. We believe that screening for recent travel is justified by the necessity of protecting our vulnerable clients and other employees.
- We have reminded all Home Care Aides of our policy requiring the reporting of any symptoms of illness and to adhere to routine universal precautions, particularly hand-washing and the use of protective gloves.
- We have urged all employees to seek immediate medical attention should they experience symptoms consistent with Ebolavirus.
- We will comply with our obligation to report any recognized case of Ebolavirus to public health authorities and we will cooperate with these authorities however possible.
- We will review and modify the foregoing policies in response to new information or unfolding developments.
In reality, there is almost no risk of Ebolavirus affecting our clients. Nevertheless, we accept our responsibility to be as vigilant as possible in the face of this highly publicized international health crisis.