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[PHOTOS] Why American Ebola Containment Procedures are Destined to Fail

The current number of Ebola cases worldwide is in the upwards of 9,000, with the first two homegrown cases of Ebola in the United States being a pair of...

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|Oct 16|magazine12 min read

The current number of Ebola cases worldwide is in the upwards of 9,000, with the first two homegrown cases of Ebola in the United States being a pair of nurses who got sick after treating Thomas Duncan, the first person ever diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

Both Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson were among the staff who encountered Duncan during his 10-day stay at Dallas’s Texas Presbyterian Hospital. However, several staff on Wednesday, Oct. 15 anonymously told reporters that the nurses were not given sufficient protection against the risk of Ebola.

National Nurses United released the results of a survey that revealed 85 percent of nurses do not feel prepared to deal with the deadly virus. And according to experts, caretakers who feel unprepared and unappreciated are far less likely to show up to work during a pandemic.

This is an appropriate response, as a disproportionate number of people who were diagnosed with Ebola in West Africa were health care workers, too.

Doctors Without Borders this week said that 16 of its staff had contracted Ebola in the current outbreak, and nine had died from the disease. Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, the doctor who heroically led Sierra Leone’s fight against Ebola, got sick and died in July.

Around the globe, about 400 health care staff have contracted Ebola, and more than 230 have died, reported Forbes.

Caring for Ebola patients is complicated; the patients are highly acute and need constant monitoring from health care staff. The CDC still does not know how the latest Ebola patient contracted the virus, but it is clear that even extremely minor oversights while following hospital protocols can increase the risk of getting Ebola.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta illustrated how a health care worker would suit up and then remove his or her protective gear when following CDC’s guidelines in a recent video, noting flaws in the process. He used chocolate sauce to represent the Ebola disease.

First, Gupta dressed in a full-body protective suit.

Next, someone pours chocolate sauce into his hands to represent the Ebola virus.

Rubbing his hands together, Gupta notes that gloves would be the most likely contaminated area.

The front of the gown can also be easily contaminated if the worker smears his or her hands across it.

Gupta then demonstrates how the gown would be removed by ripping it off in one motion.

If part of the glove brushed his arm as he was removing the suit, then that could be a potential exposure, he says.

If his face-shield were contaminated, then the virus could be transferred to his neck as he lifts it over his head.

Removing the face mask poses the same risks.

Once all protective clothing is removed, Gupta points out chocolate sauce (Ebola) on his arm.

And on his neck.

Gupta says this method may work in many hospital situations but that three things "really jumped out at him" as being problematic. 

First, not all of his skin was covered, which could be an issue "if there was some splattering from a patient who was sick." Second, Gupta says that in pictures provided by the CDC, there is no "buddy system," or someone who checks workers when they put on their protective clothing and when they remove it. Lastly, he notes that there's no specific requirement for cleaning one's hands before taking off the gloves. 

“This month has been a nightmare,” NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro told Buzzfeed. “We’ve been lied to in terms of the preparation in the hospitals. We are putting nurses in physical danger.”