How to Contain the Ebola Virus in the Hospital: Lessons From Nebraska

Nebraska Biocontainment Unit Provides Illustrated Instructions

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


October 17, 2014

In This Article

Can We Contain Ebola in Our Healthcare Facilities?

Healthcare facilities throughout the United States are scrambling to put into place Ebola preparedness plans that don't involve responding to Ebola by "making it up as we go along." Nurses are demanding to know what these plans are, how they will be trained, and how they can depend on having the supplies, equipment, staffing, and resources needed to carry them out.

A significant barrier has been an apparent lack of agreement about what should be done to protect staff and other patients from Ebola. How much and what type of personal protective equipment (PPE) is warranted? Is more PPE better? How should training take place to ensure that staff are able to put on (don) and take off (doff) PPE safely? What type of supervision should be provided during donning and doffing of PPE? What level of supervision should be in place during patient care to ensure that breaches of infection control technique and potential contamination do not occur?

Many suggestions to enhance infection control procedures have been offered, but it is up to healthcare facilities to adopt such methods as buddy systems or on-site supervision of infection control technique. As the Ebola situation evolves, guidelines and recommendations could change in response to changing levels of risk. However, experts continually claim that by isolating patients with Ebola and using proper PPE and PPE technique, it should be possible to prevent the spread of Ebola. This has been demonstrated in West Africa, but when the first patient with Ebola diagnosed in the United States entered the healthcare system, at least two nurses became infected.

Those nurses are now being cared for in special biocontainment units where patients with Ebola, transferred from West Africa, have been successfully cared for without risk to healthcare workers. Could we learn from nurses right here in the United States who are taking care of patients with Ebola, and doing a remarkably effective job at containing the virus?


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