Emergency Physicians Need More Resources to Manage Ebola

Oct 20, 2014, 11:33 ET from American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The arrival of the Ebola virus in the United States has prompted the nation's emergency physicians to urge policymakers to provide more resources for personal protective equipment and training for emergency care workers as they manage the front lines of this deadly disease.

"The response to Ebola should be regionalized, with emergency departments screening and identifying patients who are infected, and then transporting them to facilities specially equipped to care for them," said Alex Rosenau, DO, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). "Rapid identification of infected patients combined with a regional response will protect both patients and health care workers, in particular emergency physicians and nurses, from spreading the infection." 

According to Dr. Rosenau, the top priorities should be increased funding for emergency department disaster preparedness, increased training and supplies of personal protective equipment for all health care workers in emergency departments.  Additional resources are needed to train EMS medical staff, including paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

"Emergency physicians are asking Congress to restore funding to the federal Hospital Preparedness Program, a program designed to help hospitals plan for emergencies," said Dr. Rosenau.  "Funding to this program has been cut by 50 percent since 2003.  In addition, all emergency departments need rapid "yes/no" testing for the Ebola virus in labs dedicated to identifying Ebola patients.  We also support the highest level of personal protection guidelines, such as those promoted by the Doctors Without Borders, and we are glad the CDC has strengthened the protocols. This is a Level 4 pathogen, and the experience of that organization with this virus is unparalleled.  There also should be consideration for tightening travel restrictions."

In addition, ACEP is advocating for enactment of trauma systems and emergency regionalization legislation, as well as funding of a national grid of bio-containment hospital annexes.  Good Samaritan liability protection for first responders in a national emergency, such as in the Ebola crisis, is also a top priority for the nation's emergency physicians. 

"In this rapidly changing environment, we are in daily contact with our members and have convened a panel of emergency medicine infectious disease experts to provide advice on a continuous basis about best practices for managing patients with suspected and confirmed Ebola," said Dr. Michael Gerardi, president-elect of ACEP.  "Our upcoming annual meeting features three courses about Ebola being taught by leading experts in disaster medicine."

Dr. Rosenau said that emergency physicians are also urging the public to be candid with their doctors. 

"Tell emergency physicians the truth about where you have been and what your symptoms are," said Dr. Rosenau.  "Patients who conceal their travel histories or exaggerate their symptoms do themselves and the public a huge disservice.  We are ready to take care of you, but we can only do that if you are completely honest."

In addition, Dr. Gerardi said the best thing the public can do is to get their annual flu vaccine.  "Many of the symptoms of flu are identical to those of Ebola, such as high fever," said Dr. Gerardi.  "In order to minimize the number of patients in doctors' offices and emergency departments with these symptoms, we urge everyone to get the flu shot."

Here are some important points about the Ebola virus:

  • According to the CDC, symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure.  Those symptoms may include fever, severe headache, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and unexplained bruising or bleeding.
  • This disease is only spread through direct contact, specifically bodily fluids transmitted through broken skin or mucous membranes.
  • Ebola is NOT spread through the air or by water, or in general, food.
  • Unlike influenza, a person with Ebola has to be symptomatic in order to be contagious.

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. 

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SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)