CDC urges stronger Ebola precautions for physician offices

A false alarm with a patient suspected to have Ebola at a Massachusetts medical practice last week prompted an outcry for more guidance as to how offices should respond to the threat, the Boston Globe reported.

On October 12, before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued any recommendations specific to physician practices, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates erred on the side of caution by calling in a hazmat team and an ambulance, and temporarily shutting the building until the patient was transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where it was determined he did not have Ebola.

The episode was "the wake-up call that probably much of the state, if not the country, needed," Jamie Barber, chief executive of Compass Medical, a multispecialty practice with eight Massachusetts locations, told the newspaper.

Although healthcare facilities walk the fine line between being fully prepared and making patients feel unwelcome by excessive precautions, the CDC last night amped up recommendations released last week. In particular, the new guidance calls for clinicians caring for patients with the Ebola virus to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) that does not expose any skin.

Not only should healthcare workers don a surgical hood that completely covers the head and neck, and a single-use, full-face shield instead of goggles, according to the guidance, but they must remove such PPE properly as well. Also, a trained monitor should oversee the clinician each time he or she puts on and takes off the gear.

The CDC has not yet determined how two registered nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas became infected with the virus, but insufficient PPE is on the list of suspects, noted Medscape, as is the way the nurses might have taken off contaminated gear.

To learn more:
- read the article from the Boston Globe
- here's the CDC update