How to Ebola Proof Your Hospital

Julie Shenkman
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Although government officials maintain that the risk of a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States is low, proper precautions are essential to contain the Ebola virus and protect lives. Hospital workers are particularly at risk due to their close contact with infected patients. Of the four Ebola cases diagnosed in the United States, two were nurses who cared for an Ebola patient. Ebola-proof your hospital to be ready to deal with future emergencies.

The Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids and items contaminated with dried bodily fluids. It is considered highly infectious because only a small amount of the virus is necessary to cause an infection. Preventing the spread of the illness starts with identifying potential cases. Teach emergency room staff how and why to screen patients for symptoms of Ebola, and inform them of the risk factors associated with the disease.

Suspected and confirmed Ebola patients need to be quarantined away from other patients and general hospital staff. A private room with a private bathroom and dedicated equipment is essential. Inform all hospital personnel about safe transport procedures that minimize patient contact with nonessential health care workers. Train employees to keep doors shut and to monitor visitors to avoid accidental contact with the Ebola virus. Creating designated separate warm zones for putting on and taking off protective equipment is also essential for keeping the Ebola virus isolated.

Every staff member who comes in contact with the Ebola virus must wear protective gear. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on the level of personal protective equipment used when treating Ebola patients vary depending on the procedure being done and the patent's stage of illness, health care workers should have regular training in all levels of personal protective equipment use. Regularly practicing the procedures for putting on and taking off personal protective equipment reduces the risk of errors when it really matters. Put a buddy system in place to help ensure each worker remembers every step of the process to ensure the tightest infection control.

Your hospital's emergency response plan must include provisions for proper infectious waste disposal. All waste potentially contaminated with the Ebola virus is hazardous. The use of an appropriate autoclave or incinerator, if allowed by local regulations, inactivates the waste for easier disposal. Otherwise, all federal, state and local regulations for transporting and disposing of infectious substances must be observed.

Although it is critical to identify and isolate possible sources of contamination with the Ebola virus, it is also important to establish clear-cut cold or support zones for those working on the Ebola case. These zones are guaranteed virus-free for use by health care workers for planning and staging.

Ebola-proof your hospital with emergency response protocol for recognizing Ebola infections, safe transport of suspected patients, proper isolation procedures, and well-maintained warm and cold zones for support workers. Keep abreast of updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hear about future changes to standard procedures as more is learned about the Ebola virus.


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