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By Lara Compton and Joshua Kaye
Dr. David Relman, a professor of infectious disease, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University's medical school, was quoted recently saying of the Ebola virus: “As best we can tell right now, it is quite possible that every major city will see at least a handful of cases."
Healthcare providers and health systems across the United States now are seeking to understand how to recognize potential infections of Ebola virus disease (EVD), and to ready themselves to handle these as soon as they are identified.
Below are some of the key considerations for hospitals in dealing with infectious diseases like EVD, based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control, Emory University and the World Health Organization. While we are focusing on Ebola, the same overall recommendations apply to outbreaks of any highly infectious disease.
Dr. David Relman, a professor of infectious disease, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University’s medical school, recently said of the Ebola virus: “As best we can tell right now, it is quite possible that every major city will see at least a handful of cases.”
1. Understand the threat
Initial signs of EVD are nonspecific and may include elevated body temperature or fever, chills, muscle pains and malaise. Particularly early in the course, EVD can often be confused with other, more common infectious diseases, such as malaria, typhoid fever or pneumonia.
Furthermore, according to the CDC, the Ebola virus spreads through contact with infected blood and other bodily fluids (saliva, mucus, vomit, feces, sweat, tears, breast milk, urine, semen).
As a result, healthcare workers and other caregivers who do not use appropriate personal protective equipment and hygiene, and persons handling the bodies of deceased EVD patients (which are highly infectious), are at high risk for Ebola virus exposure and infection.
Hospital-grade disinfectants (such as household bleach) kill the virus. Ebola virus on dry surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, can survive for several hours; in body fluids at room temperature, the virus can survive up to several days.
2. Preparation and education
3. Safety precautions
4. Individual rights
5. Ethical considerations
The importance of clear protocols and procedures
These days it is often noted that the ease of global travel has cleared a path for novel, highly infectious diseases. Health systems are on the front lines of containment. As it grows increasingly likely that many hospitals throughout the world will encounter Ebola, or an as yet unknown disease, putting in place and practicing clear protocols and procedures is the wise route.
DLA Piper is extensively experienced in advising multinationals on issues related to novel infectious diseases and the workplace. To learn more about this issue, please contact the authors.
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