The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States (in Dallas, Texas) was confirmed Sept. 30 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, the CDC already has precautions in place to prevent the virus from spreading, beginning with a checklist for hospitals released in September.
“We are stopping it in its tracks in this country,” said CDC director Tom Frieden in a statement. “This is core public health, and it is what we do day in and day out and what we will be doing here to identify any possible spread and to ensure there aren’t further chains of transmission.”
Protect yourself and your patients with the following tips from the CDC:
Know the symptoms of ebola. If one of your patients exhibits the symptoms, which include muscle pain, diarrhea, high fever, headache and vomiting, ask her whether she recently traveled to Africa or has been in contact with someone who has. Lab tests will confirm ebola, but simply keeping an eye on patients’ symptoms can improve the chance that you’ll catch the virus and be able to treat the patient and limit his or her exposure to others.
Wash your hands frequently. Ebola can only be transmitted through bodily fluids, such as sweat and saliva, which makes proper hand-washing techniques even more important. Wash your hands before and after every patient interaction and before and after putting on gloves, face masks or gowns. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if your hands are not visibly dirty.
Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever possible. Face masks, gloves and goggles will protect you in surgery as well as in blood draws and while administering medication. If necessary, use double gloves and wear pant and shoe coverings to avoid spreading germs from one patient to another (or bringing them home with you).
Monitor hospital visitors and limit their exposure to patients. If your hospital doesn’t have a firm visitor policy or doesn’t enforce it, talk to your supervisor about putting one into place to protect patients and your staff from viruses and infections. When visitors do come, make it clear that they are expected to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer and use face masks if necessary. Remind your patients that friends and family who are sick, even with a minor cold, should not visit until they are feeling better.
Stay home from work if you’re sick. While it is unlikely that you will contract ebola, you may come down with the flu or diarrhea, both of which are contagious and spread quickly. Protect yourself from contracting a virus you won’t be able to fight with a weakened immune system, and keep your patients safe as well.
Learn more about ebola and what the CDC is doing to prevent it from spreading by checking out the CDC ebola website.
Note: These guidelines are subject to change. Visit the CDC’s website for the most current Ebola-related policies, procedures and best practices.