COMMENTARY

Ebola: Clinician Concerns as Flu Season Begins

Arjun Srinivasan, MD (CAPT, USPHS)

Disclosures

October 29, 2014

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

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Editor's Note: Medscape sat down with Arjun Srinivasan, MD (CAPT, USPHS), Associate Director of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, to ask some key questions about the Ebola crisis. We began with the upcoming influenza season and the worries that primary care clinicians may have about symptomatic patients who also have concerns about Ebola.

Medscape: How should clinicians handle patients who present with symptoms of fever, nausea, and vomiting, in light of current Ebola recommendations?

Arjun Srinivasan, MD (CAPT, USPHS): It's important to remember that the telephone can be one of the tools that can help keep us safe from Ebola. When people call for appointments, it's an opportunity to ask them the screening questions about whether they might have risks for Ebola. Important in that is a travel history or potential exposure to a patient with Ebola. A checklist for patients being evaluated for Ebola is available on the CDC website.

Medscape: If there is no positive travel or exposure history in the past 21 days, can a clinician rule out Ebola?

Dr Srinivasan: Yes. The exposure or travel history is a key to identifying patients who might be infected with Ebola. There is an algorithm you can use to help you determine who might be at risk for Ebola, available at cdc.gov.

Medscape: How can healthcare professionals who are treating or evaluating patients with Ebola protect themselves while caring for the patient?

Dr Srinivasan: CDC has issued new guidance for providing safe care for patients who are infected or potentially infected with Ebola virus. This new guidance emphasizes three key principles: first, that there are clear procedures for putting on and taking off personal protective equipment; second, that there is no skin exposed when care is provided; and third, that there is a trained observer present to monitor every step of putting on and taking off personal protective equipment to ensure that it's done correctly.

But it's important to remember that personal protective equipment is only one part of providing safe care for patients with Ebola. Hospitals need to ensure that there are procedures in place to screen patients and recognize potential cases, and also to disinfect the patient care environment in order to ensure that care is provided safely.

Medscape: Can you offer additional advice for clinicians who may be worried and want more information about Ebola?

Dr Srinivasan: The Ebola outbreak is certainly a fast-evolving situation. There is always new information. As this information becomes available, we will share it with you on cdc.gov. There are also a variety of resources available on Medscape.

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