Ebola Preparedness at UNC Hospitals

You may have heard about Ebola virus in the news and through our reports about Dr. Billy Fischer’s experiences in Guinea last month. Hospitals around the country are preparing for the possible presentation of patients with symptoms consistent with exposure to Ebola. Read details about UNC Hospitals' preparedness, provided by Dr. David Weber, Associate Chief Medical Officer.

There are no cases of Ebola in North Carolina. However, know that UNC Hospitals is prepared for the safe care of patients with highly communicable infectious diseases including Ebola, MERS-CoV, and other hemorrhagic viruses. Below are details on our preparedness, provided by Dr. David Weber, Associate Chief Medical Officer. (Time Warner Cable customers can view Dr. Weber in this story that appeared on Time Warner Cable News.)

• Early recognition and appropriate isolation of the patient (appropriate screening questions of febrile patients seen in the ED or clinics; availability of airborne isolation rooms (AIIR) in the ED and specialized clinics)

• Availability of multiple AIIR rooms (>12 air exchanges per hour, direct out exhausted air, negative pressure, anteroom) in the hospital. Plans for creating separate clean and potentially contaminated areas for donning and removing personal protective equipment (PPE). Already printed signs (Special Airborne/Contact Precautions) in both English and Spanish to alert healthcare personnel about required PPE for entering rooms of patients with highly communicable diseases.

• Training of staff on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) which for Ebola includes a full body protective suit, N95 respirator (special face mask to filter infectious particles from the air we breathe), goggles, and foot protection.  We also have a supply of PPE that would last several months.

• Education of staff on emerging diseases (Ebola, MERS-CoV) by written communications and lectures.

• Detailed plans on how to obtain appropriate diagnostic testing.  For possible outbreak pathogens (e.g., MERS-CoV) diagnostic testing is available at UNC Hospitals. 

• Close cooperation with NC Department of Public Health and CDC.

More details regarding management of highly communicable respiratory diseases at UNC can be found in our Highly Communicable Respiratory Diseases Preparedness and Response Plan.