As Ebola spreads, nurses prepare

AP Photo. A sign points to the entrance to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was being treated.

AP Photo. A sign points to the entrance to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was being treated.

By Julian Routh | News Editor

The Duquesne School of Nursing is taking steps to educate students on the threat of the Ebola virus, which was transmitted to a second nurse in the United States this week.

Nursing school Dean Mary Ellen Glasgow said nursing chairs and curriculum committees are meeting to discuss how to integrate information about Ebola into the classroom.

The epidemiology and biostatistics classes in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program have already begun teaching about Ebola, according to program chair Catherine Johnson.

Epidemiology, the study of the natural cause and control of disease, plays a significant role in containing the outbreak of Ebola, Johnson said.

The first person to contract the disease in the U.S., 26-year-old Nina Pham, was among more than 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas involved in the treatment of Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who carried the disease to Texas before dying Oct. 8.

A second Texas nurse, 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, tested positive for Ebola Tuesday night. The day before she fell ill, Vinson flew on a commercial airline from Cleveland to Dallas, raising concerns of who may have come into contact with the disease.

Johnson said the spread of the Ebola virus is an example of why taking the “universal precautions” taught in epidemiology, like hand washing, are so important.

“Precautions like hand washing and wearing gloves, goggles and masks at appropriate times are fundamental, and have been in place since the 1980s,” Johnson said. “What has happened with Ebola is that it is at its highest level of risk in terms of death rate, and so it goes beyond those precautions to wearing full hazmat suits.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday that the virus, which began spreading in West Africa earlier this year, could spread even faster in the coming months. There could be up to 10,000 cases per week in two months, according to the WHO.

The WHO also reported that the death rate in the current outbreak has risen to 70 percent, 20 percent higher than previous estimates.

But Johnson said it isn’t time to panic.

“The Ebola epidemic is very similar to others we have managed, and managed well,” Johnson said. “The transmission of the disease is very localized in Africa right now. The nurse in Dallas was in a high-risk situation. I don’t think we’re of high risk, but it’s a good time for us to all be aware of infectious diseases.”

The Duquesne nursing school created an Ebola website on Blackboard for nursing faculty to access, with information on protective measures, Glasgow said. They are also in the process of inviting an infectious disease specialist to talk to students and faculty in the school.

The University sent an email to students and faculty Wednesday with links to information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The email also requested that any faculty, staff or students planning to travel to Africa or other affected areas should contact the Office of International Programs.

According to the CDC, the Ebola virus cannot be transmitted through air, water or casual contact.

It can only be spread through direct contact with body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from the disease, contaminated objects or the fluids of an infected animal. A patient must have symptoms to spread the disease to others, the CDC reports.

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