While health officials have reassured the American population that there is a very slim chance of an Ebola outbreak, much less an epidemic, many people are still concerned about the ways this highly contagious disease is being treated in the United States. In the past few weeks, these fears grew when it was reported that two nurses from Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas were diagnosed with Ebola after treating a patient with the condition. However, the experiences of a hospital and healthcare system in Nebraska suggest that with the right procedures and medical equipment, the situation is a manageable one.
While Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient who was treated in Dallas, is regarded as the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., two missionaries and a doctor who had served in West Africa had been transported to hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska weeks earlier. Unlike many hospitals in the United States, Emory Healthcare in Nebraska has an isolation unit specifically designed to treat infectious diseases, as well as a highly trained staff. The isolation unit especially is an important quality: not only does it include a special air filtering system and special gear for healthcare workers, but it is also separate from other patient areas, reducing the chances of infection. Once in the isolation unit, the missionaries were given an experimental medication called ZMapp, which is derived from the antibodies of patients who have survived the disease. They were also given a number of fluids and antibiotics to fight the systems of Ebola. While it is impossible to attribute the center’s success to these electrolytes, ZMapp, or both, Emory’s efforts worked: both men have recently been declared free of Ebola and released from the hospital.
This success can provide a number of lessons for medical centers who may have to treat Ebola in the future: firstly, it is imperative that hospitals successfully isolate the patient and protect their staff. While the CDC has announced that they are unsure of how the two nurses in Dallas contracted the disease, reports suggest that the administration may have been unsure of the proper protocols and safety gear may not have been up to par. Secondly, patients should receive proper dosages of medication, antibiotics and fluids. Because of this, medical centers should not only invest in the best protective gear and medical equipment, but also ensure that their equipment is working properly through leak testing procedures.
Leak testing procedures are commonly used on a variety of medical devices and products, including IV bags, and for good reason: leak testing services not only ensure that a product remains sterile, but also ensures that medical devices work properly. Leak detection equipment also checks to make sure liquids and gases often used in medical devices won’t mix, and also ensures that medication is delivered to the right part of the body, preventing potentially dangerous consequences. Whether a hospital is treating Ebola or more commonplace disorders like diabetes, one thing is clear: investing in leak testing procedures can help keep patients and healthcare providers safe and healthy.