Ebola is back in the news, which means it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure your healthcare organization has a pandemic plan and staff is familiar with it.
At the moment, the only confirmed current cases of Ebola were reported in a remote location in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; as of Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 39 suspected, probable, and confirmed cases, including 19 deaths. The WHO is concerned that the outbreak, which may have been underway for weeks or months, could spread to major cities in that African country — and then who knows from there.
That’s not to say it is likely this outbreak will lead to cases of Ebola in the U.S. But the outbreak here four years ago serves as a reminder to be ready just in case.
In the fall of 2014, a Liberian national who was visiting family in Dallas became the country’s first confirmed case of Ebola after he checked into a hospital with symptoms. He later died. Two nurses caring for the man at the hospital also came down with symptoms but were treated and recovered. Also that fall, a New York doctor who had been in Guinea treating Ebola patients tested positive for the virus and was later cured.
The cases, the first ever in American hospitals, set off a near panic as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new guidelines and videos to help healthcare workers learn better how to work with personal protective equipment and remain poised when dealing with one of the most infectious diseases on the planet.
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus causes “an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated.” The virus is transmitted from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
Ebola is not the only dangerous infectious disease lurking out there, so, as we wrote in our Briefings on Hospital Safety newsletter in 2016, smart, proactive hospital safety pros “are already thinking of ways to get their staff better trained and bolster their hospital’s defenses should the next pandemic come through their doors.”
While that article is a couple of years old now, the expert advice within it still holds up. Give it a read if your healthcare organization doesn’t currently have a pandemic plan in place, or if you want to make sure yours is thorough and complete.