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Safe Management of Patients with Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in U.S. Hospitals

Frequently Asked Questions

The recent EVD outbreak in West Africa has increased the possibility of patients traveling from the impacted countries to the United States. Additionally, two American citizens with EVD were medically evacuated to the United States to receive care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. The following are answers to frequently asked questions about the safety of this medical evacuation and the necessary infection control procedures to protect patients and healthcare providers in U.S. hospitals.

What should U.S. hospitals do if they have a patient with suspect EVD?

Early recognition is critical for infection control. Healthcare providers should be alert for and evaluate any patients suspected of having EVD who have (see EVD case definition):

  1. An elevated body temperature or subjective fever, and additional symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained hemorrhage;

    AND

  2. Risk factors within the past 3 weeks before the onset of symptoms, such as contact with blood or other body fluids of a patient known to have or suspected to have EVD; residence in—or travel to—an area where EVD transmission is active; or direct handling of bats or nonhuman primates from disease-endemic areas. Malaria diagnostics should also be a part of initial testing because it is the most common cause of febrile illness in persons with a travel history to the affected countries.

When should patients with suspected EVD in U.S. hospitals be tested?

CDC recommends testing for all persons with onset of elevated body temperature or subjective fever within 21 days of having a high-risk exposure such as (See CDC's laboratory testing guidance):

  • percutaneous or mucous membrane exposure or direct skin contact with body fluids of a person with a confirmed or suspected case of EVD without appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE),
  • laboratory processing of body fluids of suspected or confirmed EVD cases without appropriate PPE or standard biosafety precautions, or
  • participation in funeral rites or other direct exposure to human remains in the geographic area where the outbreak is occurring without appropriate PPE.

For persons with a high-risk exposure but without a fever, testing is recommended only if there are other compatible clinical symptoms present and blood work findings are abnormal (i.e., thrombocytopenia <150,000 cells/µL and/or elevated transaminases).

If a patient in a U.S. hospital is identified to have suspected or confirmed EVD, what infection control precautions should be put into place?

If a patient in a U.S. hospital is suspected or known to have Ebola virus disease, healthcare teams should follow standard, contact, and droplet precautions, including the following recommendations:

  • Isolate the patient: Patients should be isolated in a single patient room (containing a private bathroom) with the door closed.
  • Wear appropriate PPE: See Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment To Be Used by Healthcare Workers During Management of Patients with Ebola Virus Disease in U.S. Hospitals, Including Procedures for Putting On (Donning) and Removing (Doffing).
  • Restrict visitors: Avoid entry of visitors into the patient's room. Exceptions may be considered on a case by case basis for those who are essential for the patient's wellbeing. A logbook should be kept to document all persons entering the patient's room. See CDC's infection control guidance on procedures for monitoring, managing, and training of visitors.
  • Avoid aerosol-generating procedures: Avoid aerosol-generating procedures. If performing these procedures, PPE should include respiratory protection (N95 or higher filtering facepiece respirator) and the procedure should be performed in an airborne infection isolation room.
  • Implement environmental infection control measures: Diligent environmental cleaning and disinfection and safe handling of potentially contaminated materials is of paramount importance, as blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine and other body secretions represent potentially infectious materials should be done following hospital protocols.
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