If nothing is a world away in spreading diseases, neither are best practices and learning. The efficiency and diligence with which we controlled SARS in 2003 in Canada could be a great teacher in preparing for and managing a potential Ebola outbreak, says Dr. Andrew E. Simor, Chief of the Department of Microbiology and the Division of Infectious Diseases at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.
Diligence in infection control practice to manage Ebola cases needs to be equally demanding, feels Dr. Simor who is also senior scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute a professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. While Ebola may, in theory, be less contagious than the airborne SARS, he draws attention to tragically fatal outcomes it has unleashed through direct contact with infected body fluids or organs.
We have learnt, says Dr Simor, that…
…Infections may be spread and acquired by patients, visitors and staff in health care settings. Protocols are thus in place for screening new patients with their travel history, for training health care providers on the right use of personal protective equipment and ensuring rigorous environmental cleaning practices for all patient care areas.
…Hand hygiene is a non-negotiable compliance. Washing with soap and water, and use of an alcohol-based hand wash rub, before and after each patient contact are fundamental practices they now follow. Regular audits are conducted to monitor compliance.
…The measures taken to strengthen public health services, infection prevention and control infrastructure and hospital accreditation standards and policies need to be meticulously deployed and executed.
…Communication is vitally important dealing with such wide-impact events. As is accountability for doing it right. Today, their channels of communication have opened to make everyone (patients and staff internally, and communities externally) aware of the situation and the measures being implemented.
This planning process, says Dr. Simor, began months ago in collaboration with public health agencies for the eventuality that their hospital may encounter an Ebola patient. “It is not an eventuality we look forward to, but given the lessons we have learned, we are better informed and prepared.”
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