How Prepared Are We to Handle Another Ebola Outbreak?

It may seem like the risk of another Ebola outbreak is off the table, but there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Fortunately, a recent study found that the United States is in pretty good shape if another outbreak were to happen.

It may seem like the risk of another Ebola outbreak is off the table, but there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Fortunately, a recent study found that the United States is in pretty good shape if another outbreak were to happen.

“In the past year, the United States saw an intense effort across the country to rapidly expand the capacity for high-level isolation patient care,” lead author John Lowe, PhD, said in a news release.

Before the 2014 outbreak in the US, most hospitals weren’t prepared to treat patients diagnosed with Ebola, or even those who were just suspected of having the illness for that matter. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention built up the capacity by designating 55 sites to care for patients with Ebola with a total of about 120 beds. While capacity no longer appears to be an issue, the disease proposes a challenge when it comes to finances, staffing, and resources.

  • The MD Magazine Ebola condition center

Most of the designated Ebola treatment centers reside in the northeast, according to the report published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology. More can be found in California and in other parts of the country. A collaborative team of researchers surveyed those 55 sites (47 of them responded) and found their capabilities and areas of difficulty. Based on the responses, there were three key challenging areas:

  • Waste disposal: There is a high cost of highly infectious waste even from just one patient.
  • Staffing: The intense treatment requires large numbers of staffing. Being involved with a patient with Ebola is voluntary, which proposes another problem for having enough staff to work with scheduling.
  • Patient population: There have not been pediatric patients with Ebola in the US so far, so questions remain on how to handle those patients. Also, responses indicated that most of the institutions do not have a plan if it were to happen.

To go along with the waste disposal problem, the researchers reported that it costs about $100,000 for the installation of the proper onsite waste disposal equipment. Only 11 of the sites, however, have this capability. Therefore, the other places must transport the waste offsite which is not is not cheap. This practice also increases the risk of exposure to staff.

“We have strengthened our nation’s ability to properly contain a highly unlikely outbreak of Ebola,” Lowe explained. “However, the ability to treat outbreaks of other infectious viruses which are airborne, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) would be challenging.”

What to Read Next >>> Evidence Confirms Ebola Persists in Semen for 6 Months