As the Ebola outbreak has spread from West Africa to isolated cases in parts of Europe and now the United States, there has been no shortage of panic and paranoia among Westerners—even those working in the health care fields.
Still, it is an established and repeated fact that Ebola's spread can be prevented simply by following proper safety procedures in a medical setting. An informational page on Ebola published at the World Health Organization's (WHO) website points to the sad reality of Ebola's largely preventable spread:
Health-care workers have frequently been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed EVD [Ebola Virus Disease]. This has occurred through close contact with patients when infection control precautions are not strictly practiced.1
As those involved in the life-saving work of pregnancy help in the medical setting, how can you protect yourself, your clinic, and your clients from this deadly virus?
The answer starts with educating yourself, your staff and volunteers, and your clients as to how Ebola spreads, which, again according to WHO, involves the following:
Ebola... spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.2
Consider the functions of your Pregnancy Help Medical Center or Clinic.
- Could you come into contact with any bodily fluid when handling a urine pregnancy test?
- What about collecting a specimen for STD/STI testing?
- Broken skin that can be exposed and contacted while conducting an ultrasound?
With these points of contact posing risks in light of the Ebola virus—in addition to several diseases that are much more likely to spread—make sure your center is paying special attention to policies such as Universal Precautions as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and OSHA Regulations.
Under Universal Precautions, blood and certain body fluids of all patients are considered potentially infectious for HIV, (Hepatitis B), and other blood-borne pathogens. Universal Precautions involve the routine wearing of gloves, other protective clothing, hand washing, and such infection control measures that are designed to place a barrier between potentially infectious blood or body fluids and employees.3
For more information on how you can keep your center protected from the spread of viral infection, check out Heartbeat International's Medical Essentials for Pregnancy Help Organizations©.
1. "Ebola virus disease," World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/ (accessed Oct. 17, 2014).
3. Medical Essentials for Pregnancy Help Organizations©, Heartbeat International, 2014, Part IV, page 4.