WASHINGTON (AP) – Revised guidance for health care workers treating Ebola patients will include using protective gear “with no skin showing,” a top US federal health official said Sunday, and the Pentagon announced it was forming a team to assist medical staff in the US, if needed.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said those caring for an Ebola patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas were left vulnerable because some of their skin was exposed.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on revisions to safety protocols. Earlier ones, Fauci said, were based on a World Health Organization model in which care was given in more remote places, often outdoors, and without intensive training for health workers.
“So there were parts about that protocol that left vulnerability, parts of the skin that were open,” Fauci said.
The CDC guidance was expected as early as Saturday, but its release has been pushed back while it continues to go through review by experts and government officials.
Health officials had previously allowed hospitals some flexibility to use available covering when dealing with suspected Ebola patients. The new guidelines are expected to set a firmer standard: calling for full-body suits and hoods that protect worker’s necks, setting rigorous rules for removal of equipment and disinfection of hands, and calling for a “site manager” to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment.
The guidelines are also expected to require a “buddy system,” in which workers check each other as they come in and go out, according to an official who was familiar with the guidelines but not authorised to discuss them before their release.
Hospital workers also will be expected to exhaustively practice getting in and out of the equipment, the official said.
The push stems from the infection of two nurses at a Dallas hospital who treated an Ebola-infected patient named Thomas Eric Duncan – the first person diagnosed with the virus in the US
The nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson, were diagnosed with Ebola less than a week later. Officials say how they were infected remains a mystery.