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CDC Issues Stricter Guidelines on Treating Ebola Patients

Update Date: Oct 21, 2014 12:31 PM EDT
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The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued stricter guidelines for health care workers to follow when caring for Ebola patients. Now, all workers will have to wear a full body suit that will completely cover the skin.

The latest regulations were announced shortly after two Dallas nurses tested positive for the virus after treating the first ever Ebola case on U.S. soil. The patient was Thomas Eric Duncan who traveled to Texas from Liberia. Duncan passed away from the infection on Oct. 8. The two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, are currently being treated at separate facilities.

"The hospital caring for the first patient, Mr. Duncan, relied on these guidelines. Two health care workers became infected. This is unacceptable," the CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a news briefing reported by WebMD. "We may never know exactly how that happened, but the bottom line is the guidelines didn't work for that hospital."

The revised guidelines were created for "an increased margin of safety." All workers that enter the room of an infected patient must wear double gloves, waterproof boot covers that have to reach at least mid-calf, waterproof or water-resistant single-use gowns that must also reach mid-calf, waterproof apron, single-use full-face masks, and surgical hoods. All workers must also use a respirator (N95 respirator or a powered air purifying respiratory) at all times.

On top of these changes, there will also be designated monitors who will make sure that the gear is put on and taken off correctly. All workers involved will receive heavy training regarding all of the equipment and gear until the procedure of getting in and out of the gear becomes "ritualized."

"These are a major step forward in protecting workers from Ebola virus infection," said infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, reported by USA Today. "But these recommendations just by themselves do not make for a safer work environment. Training is critical. We need to train people how to use PPE (personal protective equipment) safely and effectively."

These guidelines closely resemble those currently used by Doctors Without Borders. Two West African countries, Senegal and Nigeria, were recently declared Ebola-free. However, new cases are still being confirmed in the three countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the epidemic started and has been mainly concentrated in.

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