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CDC Mounts ‘Surge Response’ to Ebola Virus Outbreak

U.S. hospitals can safely manage Ebola patients, agency says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is increasing its ongoing efforts to curb the expanding West African Ebola outbreak and is deploying staff to four African nations currently affected: Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.

The outbreak began in March 2014 in Guinea and spread to the neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. It recently spread to Nigeria through a traveler from Liberia. On August 5, the CDC notified travelers to Nigeria to practice careful hygiene and to avoid contact with blood and body fluids of people ill with Ebola. A travel warning remains in effect for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, advising people to avoid nonessential travel to those countries.

The CDC has contributed to the World Health Organization’s efforts to control the Ebola virus in West Africa since the start of the outbreak. In addition, the agency recently activated its Emergency Operations Center to its highest response level.

“The bottom line with Ebola is we know how to stop it: traditional public health. Find patients, isolate and care for them; find their contacts; educate people; and strictly follow infection control in hospitals. Do those things with meticulous care and Ebola goes away,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “To keep America safe, health care workers should isolate and evaluate people who have returned from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in the past 21 days and have fever or other symptoms suggestive of Ebola. We will save lives in West Africa and protect ourselves at home by stopping Ebola at the source.”

The CDC is sending more disease-control experts to the four nations currently reporting cases.

At home, the agency has updated infection-prevention protocols for hospitals where travelers with suspected Ebola exposures may present for treatment; for aircraft crew and airport personnel; and for laboratories handling specimens from suspected Ebola cases.

U.S. hospitals can safely manage patients with Ebola disease, the agency says. The key factors are the isolation of patients, diligent environmental cleaning and disinfection, and the protection of health care providers. Providers in U.S. hospitals should wear gloves, fluid- resistant or impermeable gowns, and eye protection. In certain situations involving copious body fluids, additional equipment may be needed (for example, double gloving, disposable shoe coverings, and leg coverings).

Sources: CDC; August 6, 2014; and Prevention & Control Guidelines; August 5, 2014.

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