The infection of two Texas nurses who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian patient with Ebola, has exposed serious holes in the preparedness of US hospitals to treat the virus.
The Centres for Disease Control is now investigating the procedures at Texas Health Presbyterian, where the healthcare workers became infected, including which protective equipment is being used and how it is being put on, the decontamination process once workers leave the isolation unit, and the training provided to hospital workers.
The CDC still does not know how the latest Ebola patient contracted the virus, but it is clear that even extremely minor oversights while following hospital protocols can increase the risk of getting Ebola.
To illustrate how easy it is to spread Ebola from patient to worker, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta demonstrated in a video how a worker would generally suit up and then remove his or her protective gear when following the CDC’s guidelines. Gupta uses chocolate sauce to represent Ebola.
First, Gupta puts on his full-body suit.
Next someone pours chocolate sauce into his hands to represent the Ebola virus.
Gupta rubs his hands together. The gloves would be the most likely contaminated area, he says.
The front of the gown can also be easily contaminated if the worker smears his or her hands across it.
Gupta then demonstrates how the gown would typically be removed, ripping it off in one motion.
If part of the glove brushed across his bare hand as he was removing the gown, then that could be a potential exposure, he says.
If his face-shield were contaminated, then the virus could also be transferred to his neck as he lifts the mask over his head.
Removing the face mask poses the same issue.
After all his protective clothing is removed, Gupta points out that he has chocolate sauce (Ebola) on his arm.
There’s also some stuff on his neck.
Gupta says this method may work in many hospital situations but that three things “really jumped out at him” as being problematic.
First, not all of his skin was covered, which could be an issue “if there was some splattering from a patient who was sick.” Second, Gupta says that in pictures provided by the CDC, there is no “buddy system,” or someone who checks workers when they put on their garb and when they remove it. Lastly, he notes that there’s no specific requirement for cleaning one’s hands before taking off the gloves.
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