Thanks to new and improved guidelines issued last night by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospital workers who treat patients infected with the Ebola virus know to wear double sets of gloves, disposable hoods to include full-face shields, and special masks.
These new rules are CDC’s effort to provide workers with strengthened guidelines when dealing with Ebola patients. The rules offer significant focus on personal protective equipment (PPE), but in addition, hospital and clinic workers are being provided with more detailed information pertaining to gloves, gowns, and masks but also instructions as to the right way to put them on and take them off.
For some time, nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals have expressed concern about being unprepared and unprotected. Nurses who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient in the US to die from Ebola, complained they were sent into his room with exposed skin around their necks. Interestingly, two of the very nurses who cared for Duncan became infected, both now being treated.
According to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the CDC should be praised for issuing step-by-step instructions that healthcare professionals will find clear and comprehensive. It is obvious that CDC officials listened to what experts in occupational safety said but also workers who deal directly with Ebola patients.
In protecting workers from the Ebola virus infection, these new rules are a major step forward. However, they alone do not create a safer work environment. In addition to using the new rules, all medical personnel should have training to include using PPE in a safe and effective manner.
The new rules established by the CDC are similar to the ones used by “Doctors without Borders”, an organization that created policies for treating Ebola patients and one highly respected around the globe. In fighting the virus since last March, more than 3,000 workers from this group have been in West African countries like Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the epicenter of the crisis. However, only 21 have become infected and only a few of those worked in a hospital setting.
Using the “Doctors without Borders” model, the CDC emphasizes that all healthcare workers need to be supervised by a trained monitor, someone who physically watches each worker don PPE and then take it off, thereby ensuring that safe steps as outlined in the rules are being followed.