Nurses union: OSHA must tighten Ebola protection requirements

National Nurses United (NNU) called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement safety requirements to shield healthcare workers from the deadly Ebola virus.

NNU has been vocal in its criticism of what it calls insufficient Ebola prevention efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the statement, the union cited California's new regulations for healthcare worker protection as a model for what it says should be nationwide precautions against the virus. In California, hospitals must provide workers with isolation rooms, respirators and hazardous material suits as well as train all workers interacting with patients suspected of having the virus.

"California nurses, other health workers and the public will be safer, but Ebola and other pandemics know no borders. Federal officials and other states should adopt the same standards. If California can act, all our other elected leaders and agencies can as well," NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said.

Tener Goodwin Veenema, Ph.D., an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, echoed the sentiment, telling Hub that the threat of Ebola has been a "wake-up call" for hospitals on infectious disease preparedness in general. "With MERS, Ebola, and pandemic influenza looming on the horizon, hospitals would be well-served to ramp up their preparedness programs," she said.

Meanwhile, the case of Martin Salias, M.D., who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and died yesterday at Nebraska Medical Center, demonstrates the need for early identification and treatment of the virus,  according to Jeffrey Gold, M.D., chancellor of the University of Nebraska's medical center.

"[E]ven though this was the best possible place for an Ebola patient to be … even the best technologies that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they have reached a critical threshold," Gold told reporters, according to NBC News. Salia's death also raises questions about tests and drug treatments for Ebola, as his initial test for the virus returned a "false negative," according to USA Today.

To learn more:
- read NNU's statement
- here's the Hub interview
- read the NBC article
- check out the USA Today article