Ebola Watch: Nurses plan protests over lack of preparedness in US hospitals

National Nurses United, which has repeatedly warned that nurses are unprepared to handle patients with the deadly Ebola virus, will hold protests in at least 14 states and the District of Columbia to demand tougher Ebola safety precautions in U.S. hospitals.

"With the refusal of hospitals across the country to take seriously the need to establish the highest safety precautions for when an Ebola patient walks in the door, and the failure of our elected leaders in Washington to compel them to do so, America's nurses say they have to make their voices heard a little louder," NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said.

The union scheduled the day of protests for Nov. 12, the same day that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the government's Ebola response, The Hill reports. Ron Klain, President Barack Obama's newly-appointed "Ebola czar," is not scheduled to testify.

"The hospitals are willing to gamble with the lives and safety of RNs and other health workers. But we are not," said DeMoro. "If registered nurses, the people who will be caring for Ebola patients and are at the most risk, are not protected from the Ebola virus, no one is protected. Stopping Ebola in our hospitals is the only way to stop Ebola in the U.S."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it will update its personal protective equipment usage guidance for healthcare workers treating Ebola patients, the Associated Press reports.

Some of the tighter protocols the WHO recommends, which come on the heels of updated federal guidelines, include better nose, mouth and eye protection and doubling gloves. The latter is "an absolute recommendation … that didn't exist before," Edward Kelley, M.D., the WHO's director of service delivery and safety, told reporters. Doctors Without Borders already recommends double- or triple-gloving for its staff in higher-risk positions, such as those who work in treatment centers or handle Ebola victims' bodies, according to the article.

In Louisiana, state health officials ordered thousands of doctors not to attend a New Orleans conference on tropical diseases if they have recently visited a country affected by the outbreak, according to the AP. State officials sent a letter Wednesday to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which plans to meet next week. While the letter acknowledges minimal risk of infection from anyone not displaying symptoms of the virus, it expresses unease about people who have visited affected countries in large group settings.

John Schieffelin, M.D., of Tulane University, who plans to attend the conference, told the AP that the letter is "just one more thing that's going to slow down the science and research effort," adding that it "comes off as a little xenophobic."

Meanwhile, a new study published in Science suggests the deadly virus may affect people differently, with some victims completely resisting the disease. Genetics may be a factor in the body's response, according to Angela Rasmussen of the University of Washington and her team.

To learn more:
- check out the union's announcement
- here's the first AP article
- read the second AP article
- here's the Hill article
- read the study abstract