There are 13 hospitals across the United States, funded through the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, to serve as Regional Emerging Special Pathogen Treatment Centers (RESPTCs). These hospital facilities are tasked with being prepared to care for patients with special pathogens, like Ebola virus. However, all health care facilities must be able to promptly identify patients potentially infected with special pathogens and implement proper infection control and isolation protocols. Communication between physicians and across health care and public health systems is crucial for keeping health care professionals safe and providing the best patient care. Dr. Jonathan Grein, Director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, one of the regional centers for special pathogens, emphasizes how being prepared for Ebola has brought broader benefits.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa differed from prior ones, because illness spread to urban settings, which made international spread inevitable. One of the many challenges with Ebola is prompt recognition so contact tracing and mitigation efforts can be put in place. Developing strategies to assist healthcare workers in prompt recognition of common pathogen syndromes can help limit outbreaks in general.
Recruiting for a Special Pathogens Unit can start out of necessity, but broader valuable lessons become apparent. Protecting health care professionals and managing patients safely requires a dedicated team, well-trained in the right infection control protocols. When health care teams are confident in what to do to limit the spread of pathogens, everyone feels safer.
13 RESPCTs are funded to provide high quality special pathogens care. They serve as a resource for patient care and clinical operations among the region’s health care organizations. Strong and prompt communication between local and state public health departments, emergency medical services for transportation and the Regional Center helps provide safety for health care professionals and patients. There is a lot of preparation and planning that goes into this coordination behind the scenes, to ensure preparedness for an outbreak.
Recognition is key to minimizing exposure to health care professionals and patients. Knowing world events, taking a travel history, and screening appropriate patients will help in the first step of identify, isolate and inform. Preparing for Ebola strengthens a facility’s response to all pathogens – even ones yet unknown.
This post provides highlights from episode eight of the Stories of Care podcast, Protecting Health Care Professionals from Ebola and Other Special Pathogens. Listen to the full episode with Dr. Grein here.
Project Firstline is a national collaborative led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide infection control training and education to frontline health care workers and public health personnel. The American Medical Association is proud to partner with Project Firstline, as supported through CDC-RFA-CK20-2003. CDC is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this article do not necessarily represent the policies of CDC or HHS and should not be considered an endorsement by the Federal Government.
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