NYC doctor has Ebola; nurses demand increased protection

A New York City doctor who treated Ebola patients in Guinea has tested positive for the virus, the New York Times reports.

Craig Spencer, M.D., is currently in isolation at the city's Bellevue Hospital Center as health authorities search for people he may have made contact with recently. Spencer's fiancée and two of his friends are already in isolation, according to the Times. None of the three have any symptoms of the virus. Wednesday night, before developing any symptoms, Spencer took the subway to a bowling alley in Brooklyn before taking a cab back to Manhattan. The driver of the cab did not make any direct contact with Spencer.

Mayor Bill de Blasio assured city residents that people who rode the subway with Spencer before his symptoms manifested they have no reason to worry. "Being on the same subway car or living near a person with Ebola does not in itself put someone at risk," he said, according to the article.

Meanwhile, a new survey conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) reveals only six percent of U.S. hospitals are well-prepared to receive a patient with the Ebola virus. The survey asked 1,039 infection preventionists working in acute care hospitals, "How prepared is your facility to receive a patient with the Ebola virus?" 

During a press conference today revealing the findings, APIC urged all healthcare organizations to beef up personnel, training and equipment to better prepare their staff to identify potential Ebola patients.

UPDATE: Read more about the APIC findings and recommendations here.

Nurses, meanswhile, are calling on hospitals and healthcare providers to have their backs in case of a worsening outbreak, according to USA Today. "Nurses (everywhere) are more at risk for contracting it because they are taking care of the patient with hands-on, intimate contact," National Nurses United (NNU) Co-president Deborah Burger said. NNU has vocally advocated for hospitals to better prepare nurses to handle Ebola patients.

Ebola concerns will likely increase respect for nurses as the vital role they play--and the risks they deal with--become clear, clinical nurse Theresa Brown, R.N., wrote for CNN, citing the two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who contracted the disease caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with the virus in America.

In an effort to contain the deadly virus, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo will leave her post immediately to serve as Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell's acting assistant secretary for health, according to FierceHealthIT. DeSalvo will help HHS address "pressing health issues, including becoming a part of the department's team responding to Ebola," a spokesman for her office told FierceHealthIT.

In other related Ebola news, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued five permits to companies disposing of Ebola-related medical waste, according to Reuters. A recent report indicated hospitals were unprepared to deal with Ebola-related waste, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Times article
- here's the CNN piece
- check out the USA Today article
- read the Reuters article
- here's the APIC survey findings (.pdf)