Infectious Diseases Experts Call for Coordinated Response to Global Health Issues

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) called for a renewed commitment for a coordinated multi-country response to the ongoing outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid reports of the first U.S. health care personnel to be evacuated from the Ebola zone. A focus on prevention, treatment and containment at the epicenter of the outbreak can help maximize the impact of resources provided by multi-national governments and non-governmental organizations.  

“Appropriate U.S. investments in infectious diseases preparedness and response help keep Americans safe. There is an ongoing need for support to further the efforts in the Congo, as well as domestic preparedness to ensure readiness nationally,” said Hilary Babcock, MD, MPH, president of SHEA. “U.S. hospitals are well-situated to respond to infectious outbreaks, but ongoing funding and attention are required to maintain the training required for readiness.”

As a precaution, a U.S. healthcare worker was transported to Nebraska Medical Center after a possible exposure to Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nebraska Medical Center is one of several of places in the United States that has a dedicated biocontainment unit, with specially trained healthcare personnel, to treat patients highly infectious diseases. There is no health risk to the U.S. public due to this evacuation.

“We have complete confidence in the personnel and resources available at the Nebraska Medical Center. Their preparedness and readiness to manage cases like this is well-established,” said Babcock.  

The University of Nebraska Medical Center will soon be home to the Global Center for Health Security, which is being funded in part by a grant from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).  The center will feature a six-bed biocontainment training unit and two independent quarantine units. The quarantine units will have a total of 20 individual negative-air-pressure monitoring rooms.

The domestic expense of the 2014-2016 global Ebola outbreak was highlighted in a study published in the journal, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology titled, “Lessons Learned from Hospital Ebola Preparation.” The study found that Ebola preparations during the outbreak at hospitals identified as Ebola virus treatment centers required extraordinary resources, which were diverted from routine infection prevention activities. During a sample week in 2014, 80 percent of hospital epidemiology time was reported as committed to Ebola, amounting to a median of 160 hours of staff time per hospital, reducing routine infection prevention activities by 70 percent, and leaving patients potentially vulnerable to other infectious diseases. This study highlights the need to maintain support for preparedness and readiness training to ensure patient safety. 

Source: Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA)