Ebola watch: California adopts toughest regulations in US to protect hospital workers

California now has some of the toughest regulations in the country to protect healthcare workers who treat patients with Ebola.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Friday new requirements for the state's acute care hospitals in regards to Ebola. Hospitals must provide workers with hazardous material suits, respirators and isolation rooms, and conduct extensive training to those working with patients suspected of having the virus.

The rules are mandatory with civil penalties for hospitals that fail to comply. The regulations go further than the voluntary guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which California hospitals have followed up until now, according to SFGate. The new requirements were unveiled following a worldwide protest Thursday and a two-day strike by thousands of Kaiser Permanente nurses, who demanded hospitals provide stronger protections for healthcare workers treating Ebola patients.

"These rules are a testament to the outspoken efforts of nurses who have repeatedly pressed for the highest level of mandatory safety precautions to protect nurses, patients, and the public. Nurses have raised their voices, and California has now listened, acted, and once again set a benchmark for the nation," RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, said in an announcement.

So far California has not had an Ebola case and there have been only a few confirmed cases in the U.S. This morning a Nebraska hospital announced the second Ebola-related death in the U.S. Martin Salia, a surgeon who was diagnosed with Ebola in Sierra Leone and flown to Nebraska over the weekend for treatment, died at the Nebraska Medical Center, NBC News reports. He was critically ill when he arrived at the facility. Thomas Eric Duncan died last month in Dallas after he was initially misdiagnosed. Two nurses caring for Duncan also came down with the virus but recovered from the illness.

Meanwhile, the CDC on Friday released new reports on Ebola details in Liberia and the U.S. The reports, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, reveal preliminary signs of progress in containing the deadly virus in some counties but sustained efforts are necessary to maintain and extend these trends.

"The recent decrease in cases suggested by these reports shows how important it is to continue to intensify our Ebola response," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D. "We have to keep our guard up. In Guinea, cases have increased and decreased in waves; we can't stop until we stop the last chain of transmission."

To learn more:
- here are the California requirements (.pdf)
- read the SFGate article
- check out the union's statement
- read the NBCNews article
- here's the CDC's announcement
- check out the CDC reports

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