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What else? Ebola

Posted on October 17, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Ebola is the hot topic of the week, likely to be a hot topic for quite some time. Confusion abounds with conflicting messages being shown on tv and other news media outlets regarding the personal protective equipment required to protect our health care workers. As two nurses who cared for the first Ebola death in the US fall ill, news media are condeming our hospitals for not being prepared. While hospitals prepare for disasters of all types, this is an infectious disease outbreak with serious implications and complications, and potentially an extended duration. The graphic nature of the symptoms of the illness combined with a high fatality rate, make this an illness noone wants to catch. So as hysteria abounds, hospitals must evaluate the evidence, guidance, and throw in some common sense to determine their readiness for such a patient. The CDC has been very proactive in issuing guidance for hsoptials and health care workers on screening, testing, case definitions, personal protective equipment, and notification procedures. Local and state public heatlh are geared up to conduct investigations and contact tracing of potential cases and exposed persons. The issue at hand seems to be how do we protect our public health and hospital workers from being contaminated and coming down with the illness. While CDC guidelines call for modest PPE, television shots clearly show a higher level of protection worn by the CDC. Confusion is understandable. Hospitals must evaluate the evdience and determine the risk to their workers, while being vigilant to detect any possible cases who might walk in their doors at any time. Prudent actions - train  your intake personnel on screening of all patients for symptoms and travel history; evaluate your personal protective equipment inventory along with negative pressure capability; determine your policy on PPE utilizing your resources and CDC guildelines; review or create an infectious disease plan that outlines what your actions will be for potential cases; conduct tabletop and functional exercises to test out your plan, identifying gaps, weaknesses, and additional resource needs; communicate frequently with your staff your levels of preparedness and plan should your get an ebola patient.

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