CDC may issue new protocols for healthcare workers to treat Ebola

Amid growing fears over the spread of the Ebola virus in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will rethink its recommended protocol that healthcare professionals should follow to treat the disease.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., said during a news conference Monday that the protocol must "substantially" change as a result of the misdiagnose and subsequent death of the country's first Ebola patient and the transmission of the virus to one of his nurses, The Washington Post reported.

"We have to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control, because even a single infection is unacceptable," said Frieden, who made the remarks after it was revealed that a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who wore protective gear, including a gown, gloves, mask and face shield, came down with the deadly virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week.

The CDC plans to examine every aspect of dealing with suspected or confirmed cases, including how healthcare workers put on and take off the protective gear, according to the Post.

The agency initially said a breach in the protocols for caring for Ebola patients led to the spread of the illness. Officials are also monitoring the 70 staff members who cared for Duncan, and Frieden said it's likely there will be more cases.

Meanwhile, a U.S. doctor who was infected with Ebola this summer while treating patients in Liberia donated his blood so the nurse can receive a blood plasma transfusion that may give her the necessary antibodies to fight off the virus. She is in isolation at the Dallas hospital and in stable condition, health officials told NPR.

Officials may impose a requirement that healthcare workers at the Dallas hospital be sprayed with a disinfectant like chlorine after caring for an infected patient, according to The New York Times. The procedure is widely used in Africa. "Every option is on the table at this moment," Abbigail Tumpey, a CDC spokeswoman told the publication.

Authorities are also deciding whether procedures like intubation and dialysis are worth the risks they pose to the medical workers who perform them, the Times reported.

Fear of Ebola is also causing problems for hospitals that care for those infected with the virus as some suppliers and contractors balk at handling blood samples, soiled linens and hospital waste, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Hospitals across the country also must handle a growing number of patients alarmed they may have the illness. In Massachusetts, a man who traveled to Liberia arrived at a Braintree clinic Sunday with flu-like symptoms, triggering a full hazmat response, The Boston Globe reported. On Monday, a flight from Dubai that landed at Logan International Airport created a similar response when several people on board exhibited flu-like symptoms. Fears were unfounded in both cases, according to the article.

But the fears among healthcare workers are justified as they are at higher risk of catching the virus, according to the. National Nurses United. The union called for hospitals around the country to receive hazardous material suits and training for staff on how to handle contamination, according to the New York Times.

"We want the first line of defense to be the most prepared," National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. "Our hospitals are resisting us. The CDC doesn't say that we need hazmat suits. If this doesn't change dramatically, we will picket every hospital in this country if we have to."

Last week the union announced that nurses surveyed across the country said that U.S. hospitals are not adequately prepared to handle Ebola, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post story
- here's the NPR piece
- check out the New York Times article           
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- check out the Boston Globe report
- here's the second New York Times piece