America is now better prepared for the possibility of additional cases of the Ebola virus, as 46 U.S. hospitals are now designated Ebola treatment centers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has responded to new concerns about Ebola by designating the 46 hospitals as part of a nationwide health system to treat infected patients and stem potential spread of the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the designation of the first 35 facilities in early December 2014 , and promised that more would be assigned in the following weeks. “We continue our efforts to strengthen domestic preparedness and hospital readiness,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in the CDC news release.
State health officials have chosen the Ebola virus treatment centers in collaboration with local health authorities and the administrators of each designated hospital. The designated control centers have specially trained staff, appropriate Ebola personal protective equipment (PPE), from Ebola suits to the proper disposable gloves, and ample resources available to provide the particular kinds of treatments necessary to care for Ebola patients.
The designation of the Ebola treatment centers follows in the wake of concerns over whether most hospitals were prepared to care for patients potentially carrying the highly infectious disease. Almost half of hospitals responding to a recent survey conducted by Environmental Health & Engineering, a prominent environmental and engineering consulting service, reported that finding time to train staff to properly treat Ebola patients was a top challenge. Nurses’ groups have also expressed dissatisfaction with the level of training they’ve received in such crucial areas as the proper use of PPE. Nationwide nurses strikes over Ebola occurred in November. The CDC asserts that the staff at the 46 designated treatment centers is trained and the facilities are optimized to minimize the risk health care workers face of contracting the disease while treating infected patients.
Individuals who believe they may have contracted the Ebola virus are encouraged to go to go to one of the designated centers for treatment. The centers are strategically placed to help ensure that they are within reach of those individuals who are most likely to need the resources they provide. The CDC has indicated that more than 80 percent of travelers returning to the United States from West African countries affected by Ebola live within 200 miles of one of the designated centers. The designated control centers will play an important supplementary role to the nation’s three bio containment facilities at Emory University Hospital, Nebraska Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health, which are the main care centers for patients who are medically evacuated from overseas, among others.
Current Ebola treatment entails isolation of the potential carrier, combined with active monitoring throughout the virus’ 21- day incubation period. During that time, state and local health authorities remain vigilantly attentive to the situation, communicating every day with the potentially exposed individuals to check for fever or other symptoms of the virus.
Ebola is a highly contagious disease transmitted through exposure to the bodily fluids of infected individuals. In West Africa, where the epidemic is centered, Ebola has killed more than 6,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. There have been eight cases on U.S. soil thus far, two of which were nurses who contracted the virus while treating an Ebola patient, fueling concern over the danger faced by health care workers. The designated Ebola treatment centers are prepared to reduce the danger of such risks. The CDC has released guidance for hospitals and state health officials to refer to when selecting more hospitals to be designated as Ebola treatment centers in the future, potentially further reducing the risks faced by non-designated hospitals. However, all hospitals still need to be prepared for potential Ebola patients.