Denton County Executes ‘Strong Response' to Ebola Scare

Dallas County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Monnig was officially cleared Thursday, testing negative for Ebola after a big scare the day before.

Even though he was classified as low risk from the beginning, leaders in Denton County took a cautious, yet serious approach to the case.

The Denton County Health Department said it was notified around 1 p.m. Wednesday that Monnig had come into Care Now in Frisco and was being monitored as a possible patient.

From that point on, the department was in constant contact with the hospital Monnig was admitted to and began providing regular updates to other agencies throughout the county.

The health department even began training the staff to respond to Ebola questions and concerns when the illness first appeared in Dallas last week.

"Internally we're updating our staff, making sure that we're all aware of what the recommendations are so wherever the call comes in we can provide good information," said chief epidemiologist Juan Rodriguez when the scare first began.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jody Gonzalez said this is a procedure they train for in the county regularly.

In cases like this the health department will take the lead, and other departments and groups will do their part to communicate to the public and assist as they are trained to.

"Whether it's Ebola, whether it's flu, whether it's West Nile virus," said Gonzalez, "regardless of the type of disaster it is, the planning and the emergency plan is more of all-hazards approach. An all-hazards approach, an instant command system, having partnerships and exercised together will make Denton County shine."

Groups like the Lewisville School District were also kept in direct contact throughout the day Thursday, as Monnig has a son at The Colony High School.

Within hours of the situation being identified Wednesday, the district began providing updates to parents on their website, saying immediately that the health department had advised it was a low-risk case and it was safe for class to continue.

That was their main duty in this: communicating to parents and easing fears.

"Our nurses, and teachers and educators are well equipped to communicate and recognize those symptoms and get help where needed," said communications director Karen Permetti.

Another focus for the district is watching out for the Monnig family, including the student who attends TCHS.

Permetti said they were reaching out to the family from an early time and trying to provide any support they could, including, when the all clear came in, giving the family their privacy.

"Our thoughts and prayers go with the family because this is a very stressful experience," she said. "Our main concern is that we do have a student and making sure he's okay, and he is. He's fine, showing no symptoms. He's part of our school community, and Cougar nation really cares about its kids."

The school did still see some scare from the situation Thursday as attendance was down 284 students out of nearly 2,300, the largest dip they've seen in the last 6 months with the previous largest at 102 in a single day.

Overall, though, the county health department said the response to this false alarm was strong.

"Everyone is working around the clock to monitor case contacts, prevent any possible spread, and continue to emphasize the very low risk of this situation," said department spokeswoman Sarah McKinney.

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