Ebola was the focus of the CDP’s Highly Infectious Disease Theme Week Aug. 27-31, and for the 81 students enrolled in the Healthcare Leadership (HCL) and Barrier Precautions for Highly Infectious Diseases (HID) courses.

Students in these courses filled out the staff at Noble Hospital and practiced the skills they learned in the two courses during an Integrated Capstone Event (ICE) featuring several ’patients’ suspected of having been exposed to the Ebola virus.

The students had to manage receiving, testing and treating the potential Ebola patients while following infection-control barrier guidelines and isolation protocols to protect fellow healthcare workers and lessen the chances of a potential outbreak.

“We knew that with any highly-infectious disease patient, we were going to need at least two people dressed out in PPE to care for the patient, two (additional ) people to help them don and doff their PPE , another two people to be transporters (for the patient), and so on,” said Patti Thames, director of the Highly Infectious Disease unit for the exercise, whose real-world role is serving as Director of Infection Prevention at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope, Ala.      

Students also scripted a very choreographed route to transfer contagious patients in (and out) of the hospital, and also scripted roles for each student as they filled out their hospital staff from the healthcare leadership course.

“This exercise has really helped expand on what I need to do.  One person can’t do it all,” said Debbie Trau, incident commander for the exercise and Director of Emergency Services at Saint Francis Medical Center and Childrens Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, IL.

For Trau, one of the invaluable resources was her deputy incident commander, who was the lead nurse when the exercise scenario started.

“Often, these incidents happen at off hours, and you use the resources at hand to take command and respond to that incident.  And then when your incident commander does arrive, then you make that previous incident commander your deputy.  I think it’s very wise to consider your resources at hand to command the incident ... to use all the assets you have available,” said Trau.

The Highly Infectious Disease Themed Training Week was extremely timely.  

The Democratic Republic of Congo is undergoing its second outbreak of Ebola this year. The nation’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization say the country has had 86 confirmed and 30 probable cases of Ebola during 2018, and 47 confirmed and another 30 probable deaths attributable to the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola case fatality rate is around 50 percent. Case fatality rates have varied from 25 to 90 percent in past outbreaks.

The CDP’s Barrier Precautions and Controls for Highly Infectious Diseases course was created as a result of a 2014 Ebola outbreak, which also affected the United States.  That occurred when a traveler who was unknowingly infected in Africa flew to the United States. Two healthcare workers in Dallas, Texas were infected as they were treating Ebola patients.