I am a Nurse and for the past 3-4 years I’ve specialized in Infection Prevention. Unless you are living under a rock you may have noticed what I have been hearing for the last 3 months- that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is not slowing down.
I was getting annoyed at all the meetings we were having to discuss the status of the epidemic and our plans in case a patient wanders in to the ED but this week when a patient was identified and confirmed in Texas everything got a bit more serious.
I’m not one to panic but I can say that hospitals large and small are being advised by the CDC to have a protocol in place and this week revised some of their recommendations. READ HERE For instance, before ED staff were told to ask patients about recent travel if they presented with a temp greater than 101.5, now they have added in “or a subjective fever” meaning the patient may not have a fever at that moment but they felt feverish the night before. Obviously at this point travel history his VERY important but as there are no direct flights from West Africa to the US, all people from West Africa are arriving indirectly through various gateway cities in Europe which makes determining travel history a little tricky. And let’s face it African geography is not exactly a mandatory subject- as I was called by a nurse because a patient was from Gabon but when I told her that isn’t one of the source countries she said-well, how should I know….
I read this article with interest because it talks about how US Nurses say the are unprepared for Ebola patients. I think this is somewhat true and I think that nurses will have the greatest exposure risk but I also feel like nurses need to be open to hearing the facts about how the virus is transmitted (not airborne, by contact with body fluids-think HIV). Next week we will ramp up educating staff about how to don/doff their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE-gowns, gloves, masks, etc) removal being the key! Maybe that will help reassure them, at least the nurses at my hospital.
My own very humble opinion is that if the patient in Texas dies and/or any of his contacts becomes symptomatic the whole world will go bat shit crazy!!! The perception will be that if they can’t handle this in the US we are all doomed (and secretly thinking they could have done better). More likely the patient will survive and the world will finally dump a boatload of money and resources in West Africa and get this under control…