The missteps of the first Ebola case in the U.S. reveal uncomfortable reality. Both state and also city strategies for treatment of the lethal virus are based on standard recommendations used for everything from the mumps to tornadoes to terrorist attacks. This news comes just as it has been revealed that a health worker who helped in treating the Dallas case has now been reported as coming down with the disease.
Several different news media sources have checked in with state health departments in various states and cities which have huge West African populations. The cities of New York, Boston and Philadelphia along with the states of Maryland, Rhode Island, Minnesota and New Jersey are clamoring to adjust such general plans to focus more specifically on Ebola.
If the health departments are unable to keep ahead of cases, then there could be more delays in treatment similar to the case of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan’s handling when he was in a Dallas hospital. That case led to pointless exposure to the victim by numerous individuals.
The infection of a Texas health worker who helped treat Duncan is now the result. The sick employee has been recognized as a female but not identified by authorities. She is thought to be the first individual to contract Ebola in the U.S. itself.
All over America, there are many adjustments which may need to be made. Some suggestions for being more prepared are things such as holding drills at hospitals, 911 emergency dispatchers having updated guidelines to follow, new rules of quarantine and even specifics related to inspection of plastic body bags to make sure they are the correct thickness that is suggested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There were numerous gaps in Dallas, even before the sick health worker. The hospital failed to admit Duncan when he went to the emergency room with a fever and complaining of severe pain. Hospital records confirm that he had told hospital staff that he had recently arrived from Liberia. Failing to make the connection ended up delaying treatment by two critical days. It also was nearly a week before the apartment where he stayed was cleaned up.
State and city health departments have various individual responsibilities and powers assigned to them. This prevents the CDC from being able to effectively implement one single nationwide plan. For this reason, the CDC makes guidelines available, but city specialists have to choose what is the best for their respective communities.
Right now, there is no comprehensive national protocol set up for Ebola, and it appears that some states and cities are better able and prepared to handle an outbreak, if it were to happen, than other places. It appears that the nearest procedures for national response and planning are the ones that have been produced for epidemic types of flu and such. It raises complicated issues, because in truth it would be hard, if not impossible for a health care teams to learn different procedures for each individual emergency.
Broad plans cover apparent needs such as bringing in more hospital staff if there is an increase of patients. There are unseen needs to address when building these plans. Details like the need to plan for daycare for the children of medical professionals called in to address the health emergency. Considerations such as these have highlighted the need for planning agencies to be thinking outside of the box so that the mistakes which happened in Dallas, with the first Ebola case in the U.S., will not happen again.
By Kimberly Ruble