How Ebola prevention efforts could improve overall healthcare

Hospital efforts to safeguard against the Ebola virus may have longer-term implications for infection prevention in healthcare settings, according to an infection control expert.

"I think sometimes healthcare workers may become a bit complacent, and so what [Ebola preparation] does is it helps us remove some of that complacency," Linda Greene, R.N., infection prevention manager at Highland Hospital in Rochester, New York, told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview.

"Every day, in every hospital, someone could prevent, maybe not Ebola, [but] there are a number of infectious diseases that we're worried about," such as the flu, said Greene, who is also a former board member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and currently sits on APIC's Regulatory Review panel. "I don't think we can underemphasize those basic infection practices that are so very vital to prevent the spread of infection," such as hand hygiene, mask use and early identification, she said.

Even after the Ebola threat is contained, concerns about the virus could potentially change the game for infection prevention in hospitals, Green told FierceHealthcare.

"I think that, if nothing else, there's increased attention to the fact that in infection prevention efforts, we are connecting the dots," she said. "We see how extremely important that is, and we see the outcomes of that ... and I think that high level of awareness certainly will stay with us."

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) announced Tuesday that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital (THP) in Dallas, which treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with the virus in the United States, will no longer treat Ebola patients, according to The Hill. THP has been heavily criticized for its handling of Duncan's care; two nurses at the facility contracted the virus after contact with Duncan. A new analysis by Kaiser Health News found that many of the hospital's errors echo common infection control errors throughout the healthcare system, with nearly 700 hospitals having higher than average rates for at least one of six infection types.

Demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff has jumped in the wake of Ebola fears, the New York Times reported, with the manufacturers that produce PPE taking on extra workers. New protocols issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for zero skin exposure while wearing PPE and extensive training in proper removal, FierceHealthcare previously reported.  

To learn more:
- here's the Hill article
- read the KHN analysis (.pdf)
- check out the Times article