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Ebola Waste Poses Substantial Threat to US Hospitals, Health Care Workers

Infection of two nurses in Dallas proves that US hospitals couldn’t cope with Ebola virus cases despite claims of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti), Ekaterina Blinova - Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have assured Americans that most US hospitals could cope with Ebola cases, the infection of two nurses in Dallas with the deadly virus has proved the opposite.

"Ebola's catastrophic course includes diarrhea, vomiting and hemorrhaging of blood, a combination difficult enough to contain in less-communicable illnesses. When they are highly contagious, disposing of the waste and cleaning up what is left behind require expertise and equipment that some specialists said are lacking even in highly regarded medical facilities," the New York Times wrote.

What is worse, US health care workers are surprisingly uninformed about the specifics of the Ebola virus, including the time it can survive outside the patient's body in different environments, the media outlet points out.

"The time for educating on these things is not when we’re in the midst of a crisis. The time was years ago. Even with the billions we’ve spent preparing our health systems for this sort of scenario, we’re still so open to error," Paul D. Roepe, the co-director of Georgetown University’s Center for Infectious Disease, told the New York Times.

Nurses haven’t been trained to work in high containment environments, and most hospitals aren’t equipped with incinerators or steam sterilizers, which could handle huge amounts of contagious waste, the media outlet stresses.

"It’s totally shocking. It would take me anywhere from four to six weeks to train an employee to work in a high containment lab in a safe manner. It’s ludicrous to expect doctors and nurses to figure that out with a day's worth of training," said Debra Sharpe, a biosafety expert, as quoted by the New York Times.

It should be noted that hospital workers have voiced their concerns regarding the lack of special protocols for treating Ebola. The Hill reports that since a Liberian died from Ebola at a Dallas hospital last week, "one nurse at the facility has publicly complained that there were no protocols in place for treating the deadly virus, while several others have voiced similar complaints anonymously through the National Nurses United union."

Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee believes that those nurses who feel that they hadn’t been properly trained and equipped for treating Ebola victims should be given the right to refuse care for patients infected with the deadly virus.

"Nurses should have the right to refuse an assignment if they do not feel adequately prepared or do not have the necessary equipment to care for Ebola patients," Lee said, as cited by the Hill. 

After the Obama administration acknowledged serious errors in countering the highly contagious disease in the US, the American President stated he has mobilized the federal government to contain Ebola’s spread in the country, while US health officials are developing "stricter Ebola guidelines" to protect the nation's medical staff from contracting the deadly virus, Bloomberg emphasizes.

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