If you watch the news, you have definitely heard that Ebola is a highly contagious deadly virus affecting hundreds in Africa. Often with these types of highly contagious diseases, it is only a matter of time before it enters the United States. Public health officials at the state, county and hospital level track and prepare for contagious diseases long before the death toll reaches the point that media starts to pay attention.
WakeMed staff are trained and well prepared to care for patients with highly contagious diseases. In fact in years past, we have cared for patients with suspected SARS and those infected with H1N1 flu.
Ensuring the safety of all patients, visitors and staff in the event of a serious infectious disease requires knowledge, forethought and careful attention to protocol. WakeMed has a robust Infection Prevention & Control team that implements every precaution to protect the safety and well-being of our employees, patients and visitors.
In light of the recent Ebola outbreak, WakeMed has implemented – with guidance from the CDC and the local health departments – specific screening questions which are currently active in all of WakeMed’s seven emergency departments.
In the event a patient meets the Ebola screening guidelines during triage, an immediate, internal response plan is put in place for the safe, rapid isolation of the patient and the continued safety of all other patients, visitors and staff. The key principle driving rapid isolation is to prevent transmission of disease. As part of this plan, a WakeMed Infection Prevention & Control Professional serves as a 24/7 education and support contact for isolation, patient transport, transport of lab specimens, and is a key link in communicating with public health officials.
Isolation units are identified and set up in collaboration with the CDC and local health departments. Signage and monitors would be placed outside of the isolation room to ensure access is limited to clinical staff providing care to the patient. Any staff treating a patient with a serious infectious disease will not treat any other patients and wears fully-protective, head-to-toe equipment. Protective clothing such as fluid resistant gowns, aprons, gloves, head coverings, eyewear and more is worn whenever potential exposure to blood or body fluids is anticipated. Staff is instructed on how to put on and remove protective garments and equipment without contaminating oneself.
Following the treatment or transport of an isolation patient, strict guidelines are in place to decontaminate an isolation room or unit. WakeMed’s Environmental Services staff also coordinates the best method for cleaning and decontamination with Infection Prevention & Control, including the use of specialized portable UV machines that completely eradicate bacteria, viruses and molds.
It’s our job to help keep our community healthy and safe, and it is a job we take very seriously – especially when it comes to highly contagious diseases.