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What you need to know about Ebola and UC Irvine Health

A message from Terry A. Belmont, CEO, UC Irvine Medical Center
Roger F. Steinert, MD, Interim Dean, UC Irvine Health School of Medicine
Douglas G. Merrill, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer

Dear Colleagues,

Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that a Texas Presbyterian Hospital nurse who directly cared for the Ebola index patient has tested positive for the disease. While this is understandably disturbing news, it is also an opportunity to reinforce Ebola preparedness efforts already underway at UC Irvine Health and the way in which UC Irvine healthcare providers are protected from this happening here.

While it’s highly unlikely that we will need to care for a patient with Ebola, UC Irvine Health already has the necessary equipment and processes in place to care for these patients and to keep our healthcare workers and other patients safe. We are committed to training our health care workers to ensure their safety.

Please watch this important video message to all physicians, faculty, staff, employees and volunteers from Doug Merrill, MD, MBA, the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Associate Dean for Quality and Safety at UC Irvine Health.

If you have questions after watching this video, please talk to your supervisor or visit the Epidemiology and Infection Prevention SharePoint on the UC Irvine Health intranet. A shortcut can be found by clicking the large red banner on the intranet home page.

All of our front line-staff, our emergency department, and all ambulatory clinics are to continue to screen for Ebola by asking about travel history. Patients are being asked to self-identify travel with this tool.

If you suspect Ebola in a patient, please call infection prevention immediately at 714-456-5221. The team is available around the clock.

We have responded to a short list of questions you and your colleagues may have about Ebola, and what we are doing at UC Irvine Health.

  1. What is Ebola Virus?
    Ebola is a rare virus that is currently being spread in West Africa.

  2. What are the signs and symptoms of Ebola?
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Joint and muscle aches
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Stomach pain
    • Weakness, fatigue
    • Lack of appetite
    • Bleeding can also occur and can be severe

  3. How is Ebola spread?
    It spreads from person to person only by direct contact with bodily fluids (such as saliva, vomit, or blood) and only from patients showing signs of illness. These fluids would have to come into direct contact with broken skin or mucous membranes to pass on infection.

    This is not like measles or chickenpox which is spread through the air. Ebola cannot travel through the air or through the food or water supply.

    UC Irvine Health has the equipment and processes in place to care for these patients and to keep our healthcare workers and other patients safe. We know that if healthcare workers use the protective equipment correctly, they will be safe. Reports of ill healthcare workers in other parts of the world and in the US have been associated with lack of access to, or improper use of protective equipment.

    If we need to care for a patient who may have Ebola, a 24-hour observer will provide guidance and assistance to all who care for the patient to ensure proper use and removal of this equipment.

    We are committed to training our health care workers to ensure their safety.

  4. How is Ebola treated?
    At this time, there are no FDA-approved medications or vaccines to treat Ebola. Current strategies include:
    • Aggressive treatment of the symptoms
    • Attentive care by nurses and doctors
    • Providing plenty of nutrition and fluids
    • Monitoring vital signs and laboratory tests

  5. How serious is Ebola?
    Ebola is a serious disease. Some people who come into contact with Ebola recover, while some do not. In resource-limited places such as West Africa, up to 70% of those who become sick with Ebola die.

  6. What is UC Irvine Health doing to prepare for Ebola?
    UC Irvine Health has been preparing for several months. We are ready to screen, diagnose and treat suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola, while ensuring the safety of all of our patients and staff.

    We have the proper protective equipment and processes in place to protect our patients and staff. Kits with personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, eye protection, and gloves have been distributed to emergency and primary care settings and must be worn when caring for potential Ebola cases.

    Visit the Epidemiology and Infection Prevention SharePoint site on the UC Irvine Health intranet. A shortcut can be found by clicking the large red Ebola banner on the intranet home page.

  7. What do I need to do to prepare for Ebola?
    Very soon, there will be computer-based training for all employees. Also, our infection prevention specialists will ensure the training of all employees who may care for these patients.

    This information card will be distributed today all waiting rooms, and front desks of all clinics and the emergency department. This will prompt patients to report any travel to West Africa in the past 21 days, or to the Arabian Peninsula in the past 14 days.

    It also lists specific countries in West Africa where Ebola is present. It lists other countries where important viruses other than Ebola (like MERS) may be found.

    Another screening tool will be distributed this week to all receptionists in these same areas, giving further instructions on what to do (and who to call) if a patient reports travel to any of these countries.

  8. What training will be offered to patient care employees?
    All employees with essential patient care duties will receive mandatory education and training through the UC Learning Center. Additional hands-on training will be rolled out for the clinical areas that are most likely to care for a patient with Ebola.

In closing, we want to reiterate that UC Irvine Health leadership is committed to be sure that all employees caring for a patient with Ebola are fully protected with necessary education and training, protective clothing and equipment, and a supportive team.

For additional questions about particular patients, Epidemiology and Infection Prevention can be reached at 714-456-5221, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Thank you for commitment to providing the safest high quality care to our patients.

Sincerely,


Terry A. Belmont
Chief Executive Officer
UC Irvine Medical Center

Roger F. Steinert, MD,
Interim Dean
UC Irvine Health School of Medicine
Douglas G. Merrill, MD, MBA,
Chief Medical Officer