The Ebola Virus: Protect Yourself, Protect Your Patients

September 18th, 2014 by

signs symptoms of ebola virusThe CDC and WHO report that Ebola has an incredibly high mortality rate, with estimates ranging from 50% to 90%. The incubation period can range anywhere from 2-21 days. The Ebola virus has even been detected in semen up to 7 weeks after infection!

All suspected cases of Ebola should be immediately quarantined and isolated, according to CDC and WHO guidelines. Our role as nurses in the isolation and quarantine of potential Ebola patients is critical. We must educate ourselves on the signs and symptoms of Ebola, and report anything concerning to the treating MD and supervisors immediately.

According to recent news, more individuals who may have been exposed to Ebola appear to have been transported to the United States than the “original four”. This undisclosed number of individuals were also transported in the flying ICU units, under strict isolation and with infection control measures. Ebola is scary because there is no approved cure, although there have been people who have recovered from the disease after receiving blood with probable antibodies to the virus.

With this looming potential threat, now is not the time to be slack with your universal standard precautions. We have all gotten in a hurry and started an IV without wearing gloves, touched a patient glove-less and accidentally gotten body fluids on ourselves, or done a haphazard job of washing our hands after patient contact.

And I know most of us “forget” face masks, even if sometimes there is even the slightest chance of “flying fluids’! This is the time to review and practice your standard universal precautions learned in nursing school and now know by heart.   It is not always possible to identify patients with Ebola virus early because initial symptoms may be non-specific.

So, What Are These Non-specific Signs And Symptoms You Should Be Alert To?

Ebola usually presents with a sudden onset of fever, severe weakness, muscular pain, headaches and sore throat.   These symptoms quickly progress to vomiting, diarrhea, rashes and impaired kidney and liver function. Internal and external hemorrhaging may also be present. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes. As you can see, these symptoms could apply to multiple illnesses, some fatal but most not fatal.

A lot has been written regarding Ebola in these past few weeks. The debate continues to rage whether or not we should have transported these people infected with a very deadly disease to American soil. Regardless of your stance in that debate, the fact remains that at least four, and possibly more, confirmed cases of the Ebola virus are in the USA. Being a nurse, you have a stronger immune system than most people, but you are not supermanwoman. Be hyper-vigilant to the symptoms of the disease, and practice your standard precautions religiously. According to the WHO, most healthcare workers contract Ebola because of a breach in standard precaution practices. Do not get in a hurry and get sloppy, because the life you save could be a patient’s, or your own.

About the Author

Rebecca Kinnebrew is an RN currently employed at a large southeastern hospital, working in a busy cardiac unit. Her previous experiences include geriatric and maternal nursing. Almost all of her family works in healthcare, either as doctors or nurses, so at a young age she has been exposed to the real issues facing healthcare workers and patients. When she is not saving lives or holding the hand of those easing out of this life, she writes about her experiences and observations, as well as other topics. When she isn’t juggling her work hats, she plays tennis obsessively, works in her yard, and cares for her stepson, husband, and her little furball.

References

Sickles, Jason Ebola evacuations to US greater than previously known Yahoo News Online. http://news.yahoo.com/us-ebola-evacuations-has-included-more-patients–air-ambulance-operator-says-160126831.html

Fact Sheet N-103 Ebola virus disease World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

Weintraub, Karen and Szabo, Liz   American Ebola patient got transfusion from cured doctor USA Today.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/11/experimental-ebola-treatment/15443441/

 

About the Author:

Rebecca Kinnebrew

Rebecca Kinnebrew is an RN currently employed at a large southeastern hospital, working in a busy cardiac unit. Her previous experiences include geriatric and maternal nursing. Almost all of her family works in healthcare, either as doctors or nurses, so at a young age she has been exposed to the real issues facing healthcare workers and patients. When she is not saving lives or holding the hand of those easing out of this life, she writes about her experiences and observations, as well as other topics. When she isn’t juggling her work hats, she plays tennis obsessively, works in her yard, and cares for her stepson, husband, and her little furball.

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