Health Care Workers Treating Ebola PatientsMinimizing exposure of health care workers treating Ebola patients has become a matter of great concern.

Reports revealed that the workers at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient in the US who died on October 8, did not wear the hazmet suit till diagnostic tests confirmed the man had the disease.

The Liberian national had developed symptoms of the disease – “projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea”, according to a report – before he was diagnosed. Not wearing the protective hazardous-material gear possibly exposed the workers who cared for him to the deadly virus for up to two days, a matter now being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With two nurses in Dallas who treated Duncan being infected, it is necessary to establish protocols that can ensure a safe environment for health care workers, assure the effectiveness of the personal protective gear they use and how they use it, and train healthcare personnel on handling Ebola patients.

The federal health officials have decided to tighten the guidelines for American hospitals with Ebola patients. Many hospitals, including one of four facilities in the country with biocontainment units equipped to isolate patients with dangerous infectious diseases, already have stringent guidelines in place which even go beyond those issued by the CDC.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial in the treatment of Ebola. The New York Times reports that North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System has upgraded their Level 3 suit by adding an impermeable gown on top. In addition to the tear-resistant body suit with taped seams, the new gear includes a sealed hood, thicker outer gloves, and a breathing pack that filters air to protect workers from airborne viruses. According to a recent NBC news report, the CDC plans to issue new, clearer guidelines soon on how nurses can protect themselves.

A spokeswoman for the CDC said, “We’re wrapping up the final details and will be issuing the updated PPE guidance soon”.

The World Health Organization has declared Senegal Ebola-free. This West African nation was able to achieve this with appropriate preventive measures and contact tracking. There is no reason why this shouldn’t work in other countries too. Adequate medical and financial response on the international front is also extremely critical to control the Ebola outbreak in the affected countries and safeguard populations around the world.