What’s a hospital supposed to do if an Ebola patient shows up?
(CNN) — First, a Texas hospital came under fire for releasing a sick Liberian man without testing him for Ebola. He later became the first person diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the United States, and he died from the disease.
Then, a nurse who treated the man at the same hospital also came down with Ebola. A top health official said a “breach in protocol” led to that infection.
So what is the protocol for health care workers when they’re confronted with this deadly virus that has already killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa?
Go through the checklist
Signs of an Ebola infection include fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain or bleeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But a key clue is whether the person traveled to an Ebola-affected area, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, in the past three weeks.
That’s because the symptoms of Ebola can take anywhere from two to 21 days to show up.
Isolate the patient
Once Ebola is suspected, the patient should get his or own room, with a private bathroom, the CDC said. And the door to the hallway should remain closed.
Hospitals should maintain a log of everyone who enters the room, the agency said.
It’s also a good idea to keep someone stationed at the patient’s door to make sure everyone going into the room is wearing the right protective equipment.
Get the right gear
At the very least, those who enter the patient’s room should wear gloves, a gown, eye protection and a face mask.
Sometimes the situation calls for more precautions, such as wearing disposable shoe covers and leg covers as well as double gloving.
Those extra steps are needed if there is vomit, human waste or “copious amounts of blood” in the room.
Keep visitors out
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to keep visitors away from the patient’s room.
“Exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis for those who are essential for the patient’s wellbeing,” the CDC said.
Keeping visitors away doesn’t just protect them; it also protects hospital workers, patients and others in case the visitor may have contracted Ebola, too.