It was just a short time ago when news emerged that Ohio was activating a call center to help get out important information about the Ebola virus to users. Now, a new report from the Benton Evening News describes how Illinois is proceeding in the same vein, so to speak, and offering up its own Ebola hotline as part of the Illinois Poison Center.
Illinois Poison Center staff, according to the report, will be managing the operation, and will be able to provide information about the virus itself—ranging from symptoms to risk factors to other similar matters—as well as perform a critical additional function: keeping Illinois residents from calling doctors and hospitals to get said information, a development that could have disastrous consequences in certain situations.
The Illinois Department of Public Health, which established the hotline in the first place, noted that it was turning to the Illinois Poison Center thanks to the organization's familiarity with handling information—particularly as it relates to health matters—as well as its capacity to do so. It had, essentially, both the skill and the bandwidth, so it was a rational enough choice. The medical director for the Illinois Poison Center, Dr. Michael Wahl M.D., offered up some comment around the decision, saying “As part of our longstanding partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health, and as a part of the state’s emergency response plan, the Illinois Poison Center has both the capacity and the infrastructure to handle calls on this potential public health crisis. We have previously served as the site for similar hotlines, such as H1N1 and MERS.”
It's a smart idea for Illinois to use what's already at hand to supply a crucial public need, particularly, the need for information in a time of crisis where misunderstandings can not only run rampant but also snowball out of control. Having a centralized location for rumor control and similar features will likely prove to be a valuable development indeed, and one that will likely be echoed in other places in the days ahead. Already we've seen how Ohio was looking to bring out such information, and it—at last report—was looking to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on such a matter. As more states realize that people will be looking for information on just what Ebola is and how to avoid it, putting that information in one key place—and then letting the potential user base know just where that place is and how to get access to it—the end result should be a system that runs all the smoother as interested users take a focus off hospitals and doctors and instead funnel all of that contact into different channels specifically meant for such contact.
A health crisis can be a dangerous thing, and forcing doctors and hospitals to take valuable time and resources addressing simple questions about something like Ebola can take away those resources from where such can do much more good. Only time will tell just how well it works long term, but it's a pretty good bet that it will work out quite well indeed.
Edited by Maurice Nagle