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Are Emergency Departments Prepared to Handle Ebola?

Summary: Emergency departments are the nation's front line for all medical emergencies, including the current Ebola situation in the United States.
Air Date: 10/24/14
Duration: 10
Host: Leigh Vinocur, MD
Guest Bio: Rade B. Vukmir, MD & David C. Pigott, MD
Dr. Rade Vukmir

Rade B. Vukmir, MD, JD, FCCP, FACEP, FACHE, is Chief Clinical Officer for National Guardian Risk Retention Group. Dr. Vukmir is the Chairman of ECI's Education and Risk Management Department. He holds an academic appointment as Professor (Adjunct) of Emergency Medicine at Temple University. He has written extensively about Ebola and infectious disease in general.

He is board-certified in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Chest Physicians, and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Dr. Vukmir received medical and legal degrees from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. He completed a residency program in Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, a clinical fellowship in Critical Care at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and a research fellowship in Resuscitation at the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research. He is a certified instructor of Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Advanced Trauma Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and the Fundamentals of Critical Care Support.

He is the author of 42, peer-reviewed medical journal articles, as well as seven books. He is the recipient of the University of Pittsburgh Affiliated Residency and Emergency Medicine Faculty Excellence Award for 1991 and 1992.

Dr. David Pigott

David C. Pigott, MD, FACEP, is Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vice Chair for Academic Development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Dr. Pigott has authored multiple articles and book chapters related to viral hemorrhagic fevers, including the Ebola virus and serves as a manuscript reviewer on viral hemorrhagic fevers for The Lancet.

He is teaching two related courses about Ebola and the U.S. Experience and infectious disease at ACEP's upcoming Scientific Assembly conference in Chicago.
Are Emergency Departments Prepared to Handle Ebola?
Emergency departments are the nation's front line for all medical emergencies, including the current Ebola situation in the United States.

Back in March, when Ebola was first reported, there was little concern that the virus could spread past African borders.

Emergency rooms throughout America were given several precautions anyway, just in case Ebola would arrive. Throughout the last few months, several infected patients have landed on U.S. soil to seek medical treatment.

Patients who haven't shown any symptoms and are living their everyday lives often are criticized later when all of a sudden their symptoms appear and they need to be taken to a hospital. Why weren't they more careful? Why didn't they just stay home?

Just like the flu symptoms, Ebola symptoms come out of nowhere and hit you like a bus. One day you're completely fine and the next you develop fever, chills, aches and pains. But, if you've happened to come in contact with these patients, it doesn't necessarily mean you will develop Ebola.

Ebola is not airborne, but what if an infected individual sneezes near you. Should you be worried?

When you sneeze or cough, droplets can land anywhere up to four feet. However, until you're so sick that the virus in your body has drastically multiplied to the point where you're bleeding (and unable to actually get up and walk around), you do not have to worry about catching Ebola through a sneeze.

Are ERs really prepared to handle this?

Nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who took care of Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas hospital before his passing due to Ebola, were the first two people known to develop the virus in the U.S. This led many to believe ERs weren't prepared; that ERs couldn't contain the virus and further precautions needed to be enforced.

Further precautions are taking place, by training medical staff in the proper ways to put on and take off protective Hazmat gear.

What else do you need to know about how ERs are prepared to handle Ebola?

Rade B. Vukmir, MD, and David C. Pigott, MD, discuss if ERs are prepared enough and the precautions emergency departments around the country are practicing.