The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) says it remains deeply concerned about the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak and the difficulty in protecting healthcare professionals providing care to EVD patients. The organization says that while it understands public concerns, APIC does not support mandatory quarantine of healthcare providers with no symptoms of Ebola who have treated patients with EVD.
The evidence is clear that individuals are not infectious until they show symptoms of the illness. Ebola can only be transmitted by contact with blood and body fluids of an individual who is exhibiting symptoms of the illness and is not transmitted through the air. It is important to be guided by the scientific evidence, and apply the lessons learned so far from other experiences, including the fact that even family members who were in close contact with the index patient in Dallas have not gotten sick.
APIC believes that quarantining healthcare professionals returning from caring for Ebola patients in West Africa will deter potential healthcare volunteers and lead to increased difficulty in assembling care teams in West Africa and the U.S. Forced quarantines of healthcare workers with no symptoms of Ebola who have risked their lives to protect others, are unnecessarily harsh and are not aligned with scientific evidence. Quarantines may affect the healthcare worker’s ability to make a living and may also have negative emotional and social consequences as a result of being stigmatized for their service.
APIC continues to support the rigorous application of evidence-based measures to prevent EVD transmission, including the active monitoring (twice daily, for fever and symptoms of EVD) of all healthcare professionals providing care for EVD patients, including returnees from Ebola outbreak areas in West Africa. Mandatory quarantines should only be considered for those who do not adhere to such monitoring.
APIC is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine the best way to prepare U.S. facilities to expedite training for healthcare workers so that they may better protect themselves against Ebola virus transmission, properly identify potential Ebola patients, and transfer them to specialized care facilities when needed.
Each healthcare facility must commit the necessary resources in terms of infection control personnel, training, and equipment to ensure that every hospital can safely identify and isolate any potential Ebola patient. The recent outbreak of Ebola illustrates why facility-wide infection prevention programs are critical and require adequately trained, staffed, and resourced infection control departments.
APIC says it is on the highest state of alert during this critical time to assess what is needed and provide guidance in effective practices to abate a potential outbreak in the United States. APIC stands ready to work with the government and other stakeholders to ensure the highest level of safety for healthcare professionals and the public.