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Gov. Christie announces Ebola joint response team

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HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) — No one in New Jersey has been diagnosed with Ebola, but Gov. Chris Christie says the state is prepared for anything that comes its way but urged caution against overhyping the threat.

Christie on Wednesday announced the creation of a joint response team to coordinate Ebola preparedness in the state. The group will oversee the state’s response to the outbreak.

Newark Liberty International Airport is one of five airports all U.S.-bound passengers whose trips began in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone will be forced to pass through.

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PASSENGERS FROM EBOLA-AFFECTED COUNTRIES ARRIVE AT NEWARK?

Christopher Rodriguez, the state’s director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said officials receive information daily about incoming passengers traveling from the three West African countries most affected by the outbreak.

When they arrive, those individuals are escorted to a screening room where their temperatures are taken and they’re asked several questions about their direct and indirect contact with Ebola patients.

If they’re believed to pose a potential risk, they’re referred to personnel with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who provide more extensive screening. They may then be referred to the state Department of Health, which will determine whether they should be quarantined—even if they’re not showing any signs of illness.

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WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

Individuals who are deemed high-risk but asymptomatic and in need of quarantine will either be taken home or to temporary housing.

Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez said the state has been working to arrange temporary housing in hospitals with vacant space, as well as hotels or other facilities that may be closed for renovation. New Jersey residents and those who live within 100 miles of Newark’s airport would be transported to their own homes.

Symptomatic travelers would be transported to one of three designated hospitals in the state: Hackensack University Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and University Hospital in Newark.

A CDC technical assistance team will be visiting each of those hospitals to help their preparation efforts. But Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said every hospital in the state has to be ready for patients.

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IS ANY LONG-TERM MONITORING IN PLACE?

The CDC announced Wednesday that travelers coming from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will soon be actively monitored for 21 days after their arrival.

Even if they don’t show symptoms, travelers arriving in New Jersey starting Monday will have to track their temperatures and other Ebola symptoms, such as headaches and joint and muscle aches. They’ll also have to report their temperatures to government officials every day. New Jersey officials have yet to provide information about how they’ll put the system in place.

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WHAT ELSE IS BEING DONE?

Hospitals across the state have been running drills, and officials have been conferring with their counterparts in Texas to make sure mistakes that may have contributed to the death of the first Ebola patient diagnosed on American soil aren’t repeated. The Department of Health purchased nearly $1 million in additional personal protection equipment Tuesday for hospital workers.

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WHAT SHOULD RESIDENTS DO?

Christie urged New Jersey residents to remain calm. “We’re taking this extraordinarily seriously, but we are not going to be in the business of stoking hysteria about this in the public,” he said. Christie added that the volume of coverage had already rattled his 11-year daughter, who told him she was worried she might catch the disease.

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