When faced with cases of highly infectious diseases, emergency responders and medical receivers need to know how to protect themselves and prevent the disease from spreading to others. One training facility is focusing on this topic with courses that instruct healthcare workers and other responders about infection-control barrier guidelines and isolation protocols.
In Anniston, Alabama, the Center for Domestic Preparedness’ (CDP) Highly Infectious Disease Theme Week (27-31 August 2018) focused on Ebola. The 81 students enrolled in the Barrier Precautions for Highly Infectious Diseases and the Healthcare Leadership courses filled out the staff at Noble Hospital. They practiced the skills they learned in the two courses during an Integrated Capstone Event, which was a full-scale exercise featuring several “patients” suspected of having been exposed to the Ebola virus.
From a Training Perspective
The students had to manage the receiving, testing, and treating process for the potential Ebola patients while following infection-control barrier guidelines and isolation protocols to protect fellow healthcare workers and lessen the chances of a potential outbreak.
“We knew that with any highly infectious disease patient, we were going to need at least two people dressed out in personal protective equipment to care for the patient, two additional people to help them don and doff their protective equipment, another two people to be transporters (for the patient), and so on,” said Patti Thames, director of the Highly Infectious Disease Unit for the exercise, whose real-world role is serving as director of infection prevention at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, Alabama.
Students scripted a choreographed route to transfer contagious patients in and out of the hospital and scripted roles for each student, as they filled out their hospital staff from the healthcare leadership course.
“This exercise has really helped expand on what I need to do. One person can’t do it all,” said Debbie Trau, incident commander for the exercise and director of emergency services at Saint Francis Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria. For Trau, one of the invaluable resources was her deputy incident commander, who was the lead nurse when the exercise scenario started.
“Often, these incidents happen during off hours, and you use the resources at hand to take command and respond to that incident. And then when your incident commander does arrive, then you make that previous incident commander your deputy. I think it’s very wise to consider your resources at hand to command the incident ... to use all the assets you have available,” said Trau.
Why Training Is Critical
The Highly Infectious Disease Themed Training Week was timely. The Democratic Republic of Congo is undergoing its second outbreak of Ebola in 2018. According to the nation’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, Ebola outbreaks in 2018 have resulted in 244 confirmed and 35 probable cases, and 179 deaths as of 30 October 2018. According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola case fatality rate is around 50 percent.
The CDP’s Barrier Precautions and Controls for Highly Infectious Diseases course was created after the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa reached the United States. That occurred when a traveler who was unknowingly infected in Africa flew to the United States. Two healthcare workers in Dallas, Texas, were infected as they were treating that Ebola patient.
The CDP offers its “Barrier Precautions for Highly Infectious Diseases” course monthly now through March 2019. With a mix of live actors and mannequins in the role of patients during its training, CDP prepares healthcare, public health, and environmental health workers to respond to highly infectious disease outbreaks, mass casualty events, and natural disasters. Online enrollment is underway for this course and the Healthcare Care Leadership course, at: https://cdp.dhs.gov/find-training