Hospitals Need Full-Time Ebola Care Supervisor, CDC Says

Hospitals in the U.S. caring for Ebola victims need to appoint a full-time individual who is responsible for overseeing infection control, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

The agency has sent infection-control experts to a Dallas hospital where two nurses became infected after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola on Oct. 8 after flying to the U.S. from Liberia, said CDC Director Tom Frieden in testimony prepared for a U.S. House committee hearing today.

The nurses’ infections “demonstrate the need to strengthen the procedures for infection-control protocols which allowed for exposure to the virus,” Frieden said. Two Republican members of Congress have called for him to resign, criticizing his agency’s response to the U.S. outbreak.

“We remain confident that Ebola is not a significant public health threat to the United States,” Frieden said in the testimony.

National Nurses United, a labor union, has said nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital weren’t provided sufficient protective gear until Duncan was confirmed to have Ebola, two days after he was admitted with symptoms. The hospital said today in a statement that nurses who treated Duncan “wore the appropriate personal protective equipment as recommended by the CDC at the time.”

Frieden has said the CDC erred in not sending a team of infectious-disease specialists to the Texas hospital earlier in Duncan’s treatment. The agency also shouldn’t have permitted the second nurse who was infected, Amber Vinson, to fly from Cleveland to Dallas the evening before she reported symptoms of the virus, Frieden has said.

New Recommendations

The CDC’s recommendations for handling Ebola patients have changed since Duncan was admitted. Frieden said in his testimony that the agency now recommends that hospitals limit the number of health workers who interact with Ebola patients to “an absolute minimum” and that only “essential procedures” be performed.

The agency is also “examining the issue of personal protective equipment,” he said. Some workers at Texas Health wore multiple layers of protection, he has said, inadvertently complicating the disrobing process and raising their risk of exposure.

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