After two nurses contracted Ebola when treating an infected patient, many nurses felt unprepared if a patient with the disease came through their hospital doors. One year later, the University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC) is prepared to face another outbreak since being named one of nine regional Ebola treatment centers in the U.S.
According to a recent Huffington Post article, not all U.S. hospitals can be ready to effectively and efficiently treat Ebola and other highly infectious diseases, so the U.S. appointed one hospital per region to specialize in treating highly infectious pathogens. They also designated other hospitals as assessment centers that could care for the patient until the disease is identified and then transport the patient to a regional center.
According to a recent Star Tribune article, “More than 23,000 people suffered suspected infections and more than 14,000 died in the current Ebola outbreak, but the number of new cases has slowed in recent weeks.” Although Ebola may be slowing down in the headlines, the epidemic is far from over. Experts suggest health officials shouldn’t be drawing back on testing and creating vaccines for this highly deadly virus.
Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H., an infectious disease expert and director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), told the Star Tribune that “waiting for another global scare to ramp up vaccine efforts won’t work.” Osterholm, joined by 25 other international leaders in infectious disease, also known as “Team B,” are advocating for a pace of vaccine development that would be considered the fastest in human history.
As experimental Ebola vaccines start to head toward large clinical trials in Africa, a report released today by academic experts and a British charitable foundation spelled out the complexity of the challenges involved in providing a vaccine to help stop West Africa’s sprawling epidemic.
As 2014 came to an end, health officials named the last 12 months as some of the busiest for public health workers in the last decade. There were many widespread outbreaks including Enterovirus D-68, MERS, measles and Ebola, which plagued nations around the world. The spread and damage of those viruses raised concerns, and brought disease preparedness to the forefront of the health care industry.
Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., M.P.H., a disease specialist with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy told the Science Times, “I think what we really hit is a new normal.” Osterholm believes that health concerns could worsen in the years to come.
2014 will be remembered for the largest, most complex outbreak of Ebola and our first experience fighting the disease within the United States. University of Minnesota infectious disease experts were frequently sought out as international teams mobilized to contain the deadly virus. But Ebola wasn’t the only significant health story in 2014.