The 2014 outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (“Ebola”) is the largest in history and continues to affect multiple countries in West Africa. Although reports of new Ebola cases in the U.S. – potential or confirmed – have slowed down in recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and its various domestic and international partners continue their efforts to prevent further transmission of Ebola in the U.S. as well as abroad. Earlier this week, in fact, the CDC released two new pieces of guidance regarding treatment of Ebola that will be of particular interest to health care providers.
The first new CDC guidance is an official list of Ebola Treatment Centers. The current list includes 35 U.S. hospitals located in twelve states plus the District of Columbia. The CDC plans to update this list on a weekly basis as additional U.S. hospitals work with state and local health authorities and the CDC to assess their infrastructures and operational readiness to receive and provide comprehensive care to persons diagnosed with Ebola. As the CDC states in its Interim Guidance for Preparing Ebola Treatment Centers, the decision to designate a facility as an Ebola Treatment Center results from collaborative efforts between health authorities, the CDC, and hospital administration, as well as results from a CDC site visit conducted by an interdisciplinary team of experts.
The CDC also released new Interim Guidance for U.S. Hospital Preparedness for Patients with Possible or Confirmed Ebola Virus Disease: A Framework for a Tiered Approach. The CDC has developed this guidance to help state and local health departments, acute care hospitals, and other health care settings where emergency care is provided, develop appropriate preparedness plans for patients with possible or confirmed Ebola infection. The CDC developed this guidance as a means for tying together other, previously released guidance specific to Frontline Health Care Facilities (acute care facilities equipped for emergency care, not including primary care offices and other non-emergency ambulatory care facilities), Ebola Assessment Hospitals (facilities prepared to receive and isolate a patient with possible Ebola infection and to care for such patient until a diagnosis of Ebola can be confirmed or ruled out and until discharge or transfer is completed), and Ebola Treatment Centers(facilities that plan to care for and manage a patient with confirmed Ebola infection for the duration of the patient’s illness).
This latest CDC guidance is yet another reminder, even before the current Ebola epidemic is brought under control globally, that health systems worldwide must continue efforts to detect infectious disease outbreaks before they rise to crisis levels. As Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the CDC, recently told the Associated Press, “Ebola is a powerful reminder that a health threat anywhere can affect us.” Dr. Frieden stresses the ongoing importance, system wide, of addressing “weak links and blind spots around the world” that can lead with little warning to infectious disease outbreaks of Ebola-like proportions. Renewed global focus on these efforts has come in the form of a $600 million request from the Obama Administration for the CDC to implement its Global Health Security Agenda, through which CDC would work with an international coalition to improve disease detection in high-risk countries and guard against future infectious disease contagion.