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10 things about Ebola from Eagleson Institute's infectious disease colloquium

Research institutions know how to handle life-threatening, highly contagious diseases like Ebola in the lab, but how do we handle them in healthcare settings?

April 28, 2015 |
HDR Insights
Seven of the eleven patients with confirmed cases of Ebola in the US were treated either at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Biocontainment Unit or at Emory University’s Serious Communicable Disease Unit.
Members of these primary-care teams along with staff at other medical centers who had treated patients suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus attended the recent HDR and Eagleson Institute sponsored colloquium, “Healthcare and Facility Response and Design for Highly Pathogenic Infectious Diseases.”
Attendees came from various healthcare, research, operations and management backgrounds—from nurses, physicians and researchers to transporters and waste management specialists. The collective knowledge gathered and generated at this colloquium will be published in the form of performance-based guidelines for bio-containment patient units. (Stay tuned.)
It was a privilege to be at this conference and around these folks; some are truly heroic.
And, I learned some things:
  1. The 2014 Ebola outbreak was first identified by a clinical doctor who recognized one unusual symptom in a cluster of his patients: hiccups!
  2. What happens in West Africa does not stay in West Africa.
  3. The good news is: Ebola is not very contagious—it only spreads person-to-person through bodily fluids and not easily.
  4. The bad news is: Ebola is dangerously infectious—it only takes a single particle of virus to infect someone. In comparison, it takes 100 particles of HIV and 1000 particles of the flu virus.   
  5. The University of Nebraska Medical Center put out close to a hundred informative videos on iTunes University (including some in Spanish) that have garnered over 55 million views.
  6. It’s all about people: Not surprisingly, we remember the picture of the doctor in Sierra Leone—not the one of the filtered air duct.
  7. A treadmill in every room: Patients start to feel stir crazy as they get better, days or weeks before they can be safely discharged.
  8. Use of hand-sanitizer is up and hospital-acquired infections down in hospitals that handled confirmed and suspected Ebola patients.
  9. Google developed an Ebola-proof tablet.
  10. Wash your hands!

About the Author: Ellen Randall is a writer with HDR’s Communications Group, and a 13-year veteran of HDR. In her current role, she writes extensively about design and Science + Technology—where her past life as an architect and her natural curiosity about scientific processes serve her well. She is married to an architect (typical architect move!) and they have three grown girls. In her free time, Randall is a long-distance swimmer and a songwriter.

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