Keep Up with Advances in Protecting Workers from Infectious Diseases

Posted March 23, 2015

Recently, ten U.S. healthcare workers were evacuated from Sierra Leone and transferred back to the United States to be monitored for possible exposure to the Ebola virus. The latest American health worker to contract an Ebola infection was admitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center’s Special Clinical Studies Unit in Bethesda, Md., on March 13. On March 16, NIH released a news announcement updating the patient’s status to critical condition. The worker tested positive for Ebola after volunteering in Sierra Leone, and is the second individual to be treated at the NIH Clinical Center. The first was treated successfully and released.

The NIH Clinical Center in Maryland is one of three high-containment units in the U.S. that have already treated Ebola patients. The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb., and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., are the other two.

Exposure risk remains an area of concern for healthcare workers who are treating Ebola patients, and industrial hygienists are valuable assets to healthcare teams in preventing and preparing for infectious diseases in the workplace. IHs can offer assistance in training workers on proper personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols; evaluating and providing recommendations for infection control plans; offering guidance on the proper agents and procedures for decontaminating surfaces and equipment; and other health and safety precautions.

But as different prevention methods and advances in technology arise, there is always more to learn about infection control preparedness and prevention, and ongoing training can be tremendously valuable to IHs working to eliminate occupational illnesses. Proper adherence to infection control guidelines and overall preparedness can be the difference in the protection of healthcare workers from the Ebola virus, and allow the safe treatment of patients without any transference of the disease.

At AIHA’s upcoming national conference, AIHce, a professional development course (PDC), Preventing Worker Exposure to Ebola and Emerging Infectious Diseases, will provide new information about advances in identifying infectious diseases; conducting risk assessments; facilitating collaboration between infection control practitioners and physicians; and protecting workers from highly infectious and virulent agents. This PDC will take place on Saturday, May 30, from 1:00–5:00 p.m., in Salt Lake City, Utah. The American Academy of Family Physicians has approved this course for up to 3.75 elective continuing medical education (CME) credits. Participants may also earn 4 CM credit hours. Click here to register.

For more coverage and resources on Ebola, AIHA's Ebola coverage and resources Web page contains information related to the 2014 Ebola outbreak for industrial hygienists, occupational and environmental health and safety professionals, and the public.

Related Reading

The Synergist: “IHs Play Key Role in Treatment of American Ebola Patients” (November 2014).