Perhaps the most comfort Hewlett was able to provide is that none of the super-fancy tech that these four high-level isolation wards have at their disposal is even necessary for Ebola. "There's a big fear factor with this illness but really, these types of patients can taken care of at any good healthcare facility," says Dr. Hewlett.
That's because the Ebola virus easily dies outside of the human body, so unless you've been handling a sick person's blood or feces, you are almost certainly a-okay. Ebola is pretty darn hard to get compared to an airborne disease like SARS or even the regular old flu. But with a mortality rate of up to 90 percent—and over 50 percent with the strain in the current outbreak—we still need to keep doctors and nurses as safe as we can. Here's how Nebraska Biocontainment Unit keeps diseases like Ebola—and much, much worse—from spreading in the hospital.
In addition, the biocontainment unit has negative air pressure, which means that air pressure inside the isolation rooms is slightly lower than that outside. Essentially, air is gently sucked into the room, so particles from inside the room can't float out when you open a door. As another line of protection, ultraviolet lights zap any viruses or bacteria in the air or on surfaces.
Entering and exiting the room becomes an elaborate production because putting on and taking off all the gear can take more than 10 minutes each way. A second person assists to make sure every piece of equipment is put on right and there are no rips or tears in any of the protective gear. Afterwards, every piece of equipment is wiped down to kill the pathogen; in the case of Ebola, simple bleach is enough to do the trick. The full-body suit is discarded after each use.
It's worth reiterating that most of this equipment and these procedures go above and beyond protecting for Ebola. The air systems and full-body suits are really there to guard against possible airborne diseases, like smallpox or SARS or some highly contagious avian flu viruses that may emerge in the future.
In fact, the CDC's current guidelines for treating Ebola in U.S. hospitals require only gloves, goggles, a facemask, and a gown in most situations. Even if someone inadvertently brings Ebola to other hospitals, it's highly unlikely to spread in the U.S. The situation is different in Africa, where inadequate equipment and fear of healthcare workers has contributed to the worsening situation.
A State Department official did visit Nebraska to see whether the unit would be ready to accept any Ebola patients in the future, though the facility hasn't yet been used despite being open for nine years. There hasn't been a disease serious enough to merit it. "This is good thing," says Dr. Hewlett, "However with world travel the way it is, it is inevitable these things are going to come eventually." If and when Ebola does come to the U.S. again, we are definitely prepared, which is not something we can say about what else may be coming down the line.
source: gizmodo.com by Sarah Zhang