ATLANTA (CBS/AP) – Federal officials are going on the road with new guidelines to promote head-to-toe protection for health workers treating Ebola patients.
Officials on Monday night released the advice, which health workers had pushed hard for after two Dallas nurses became infected while caring for the first person diagnosed with the virus in the United States.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials will be demonstrating the recommended techniques Tuesday at a massive training at New York City’s Javits Center, with an expected attendance of thousands.
The president of a group representing 3 million registered nurses said she’s glad to finally see better federal advice. Health care workers said the CDC’s old guidance was confusing and inadequate, and left them fearfully unprepared for how to deal with an Ebola patient.
“Today’s guidance moves us forward,” said Pamela Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association, in a statement Monday night.
Demand for new guidance was spurred by the unexpected infections this month of the two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. It’s not clear exactly how they became infected, but clearly there was some kind of problem, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.
“The bottom line is the guidelines didn’t work for that hospital,” Frieden said, in announcing the revised guidelines Monday evening.
Amid increasing anxiety over the Ebola response in Texas, the largest union of registered nurses in the United States had called on President Obama to mandate uniform standards and protocols for the treatment of the virus.
Deborah Berger, who is co-president of the Oakland-based National Nurses United, said they have been contacted by nurses from Texas Health Presbyterian about ill-preparedness, including leaving him in areas with other patients and sending his lab specimens though the hospital’s pneumatic tube delivery system for sending samples.
“The result is that the entire tube system, [through] which all lab specimens are sent, was potentially contaminated,” she said at a press conference last week.
Executive director of NNU RoseAnne DeMoro said the union has sent a letter to the president, urging him to mandate hospitals provide full bio-containment suits, hands-on training, a 2:1 nurse-to-patient staffing ratio and more for Ebola cases.
Although California has no confirmed cases of Ebola, Bay Area public health officials aren’t taking any chances.
Amy Nichols, Director of Infection Control at UCSF, said hospital workers are regularly trained in infection prevention.
“They’re the same strategies that were in place in the early ‘80s when HIV came on the scene. As a matter of fact that’s what drove many of these strategies. They work when they’re done correctly,” she said.
Earlier CDC guidelines had been modeled on how Ebola patients in Africa were treated, though that tends to be less intensive care done in rougher settings — like tents. They also allowed hospitals some flexibility to use available covering when dealing with suspected Ebola patients.
The new guidelines set a firmer standard, calling for full-body garb and hoods that protect worker’s necks; setting rigorous rules for removal of equipment and disinfection of hands; and calling for a “site manager” to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment.
They also call for health workers who may be involved in an Ebola patient’s care to repeatedly practice and demonstrate proficiency in donning and doffing gear — before ever being allowed near a patient.
And they ask hospitals to establish designated areas for putting on and taking off equipment, whether it’s a room adjacent to an Ebola patient’s room or a hallway area cordoned off with a plastic sheet.
The CDC cannot require hospitals to follow the guidance; it’s merely official advice. But these are the rules hospitals are following as they face the possibility of encountering patients with a deadly infectious disease that a few months ago had never been seen in this country.
The CDC guidance was expected as early as Saturday, but its release has been pushed back while it continues to go through review by experts and government officials.
All this stems from the case of Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who came down with Ebola symptoms last month while visiting Dallas.
Duncan went to the hospital Sept. 25 but was not tested for, or diagnosed with, Ebola. He returned to the hospital three days later and on Sept. 30 tested positive. He died Oct. 8.
Duncan’s case led to the monitoring of about 50 people who came in contact with him before his second trip to the hospital, and dozens of health care workers who cared for him after his admission.
Some good news this week: The 50 in the initial contact group have passed a 21-day observation period and no longer are deemed at risk for coming down with the dreaded disease.
Youngor Jallah spent the past three weeks confined to her small apartment with her children and boyfriend, fearing they had contracted the deadly Ebola virus from Duncan, who was her mother’s fiance.
But with the household emerging symptom-free from the incubation period, Jallah’s family members are now trying to resume their lives – replacing the personal belongings incinerated in a cleanup at her mother’s home, and overcoming the stigma of the Ebola scare that has gripped Dallas.
“If they see me at the store, they run away,” Jallah told The Associated Press on Monday.
There are now about 120 people in Texas being monitored for symptoms, with their wait period ending Nov. 7, said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. He said the number may fluctuate.
There are also about 140 people being monitored in Ohio because of contact or potential contact with nurse Amber Vinson, Ohio officials said. Vinson, who cared for Duncan in Texas, flew from Dallas to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and flew back Oct. 13.
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