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Are U.S. hospitals taking steps to protect employees from Ebola ?

According to the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 5, more than 8,000 people have been diagnosed with the deadly virus known as Ebola and nearly 4,000 people have died. The deadly Ebola outbreak began in the Western African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and has spread to other European countries as well as the U.S., where the first reported case of Ebola was diagnosed on Sept. 30, 2014.

Ebola is spread when an individual comes into contact with the bodily fluids of an individual who is infected. The virus can then be transmitted via the eyes, mucus membranes, and mouth or via cuts or scrapes in the skin. Individuals who are infected with the virus typically exhibit symptoms within eight to 10 days after exposure and are highly infectious. As the body attempts to fight off the virus, symptoms worsen to include vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding; thereby increasing the likelihood of transmission to others.

Individuals in the healthcare industry are particularly vulnerable to exposure to Ebola and it's critical that hospitals take measures to educate and protect employees to prevent the spread of the virus. From first responders and laboratory technicians to nurses and doctors; in the event a patient with Ebola is admitted to a hospital, individuals who work in a healthcare setting could become infected via direct or indirect contact.

To help reduce the risk of Ebola infection and transmission among health care workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of personal protective equipment including goggles, face shields, face masks, gowns or protective clothing and gloves. In addition to the proper use of protective equipment, the CDC also provides recommendations on how to properly remove and dispose of equipment after use.

While it remains to be seen whether or not additional Ebola cases are diagnosed in the U.S., the highly infectious nature of the virus along with its lethalness should spur hospitals and health care workers around the country to take proper safety measures.

Source: CDC, "Ebola," 2014

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