Category Archives: Infections

Atlanta hospital staff trained for years to prepare to patients with highly infections diseases

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Amber Vinson was joined on the stage by Emory University Hospital team members who helped her recover from Ebola virus disease. Photo by Jack Kearse.

Amber Vinson was joined on the stage by Emory University Hospital team members who helped her recover from Ebola virus disease. Photo by Jack Kearse.

By Jim Burress, WABE
October 29, 2014

This story is part of a partnership that includes WABE, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

It was July 30th when Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital got the first call.

An American doctor who’d been treating Ebola in Liberia was now, himself, terribly sick with the virus.

In just 72 hours, Dr. Kent Brantly came through Emory’s doors. Then, almost immediately, the staff learned a second Ebola patient was on the way.

Emory’s plan to treat patients who have diseases like Ebola actually began 12 years ago.

Dr. Jay Varkey’s first thought was, “What do we need today, in order to care for these patients tomorrow?”

In the three months since, Emory has treated four Ebola patients. All survived. Dallas nurse Amber Vinson spent more than a week at a special treatment unit at Emory before being discharged in good health and good spirits Tuesday. Continue reading

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Hepatitis C patients may not qualify for pricey drugs unless illness is advanced

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleBy Michelle Andrews
KHN / October 28, 2014

In the past year, new hepatitis C drugs that promise higher cure rates and fewer side effects have given hope to millions who are living with the disease.

But many patients whose livers aren’t yet significantly damaged by the viral infection face a vexing reality: They’re not sick enough to qualify for the drugs that could prevent them from getting sicker.

An estimated 3 million people have hepatitis C. Faced with a cost per patient of roughly $95,000 or more for a 12-week course of treatment, many public and private insurers are restricting access to those who already have serious liver damage.

Many baby boomers who have hepatitis C contracted it years ago from blood transfusions at a time when blood was not screened for the virus.

Other strategies that limit access include restricting who can prescribe the drugs or requiring early proof the drug is working before continuing with treatment.

In addition, many state Medicaid programs require that patients be drug and alcohol free for a period of months before they can get the hepatitis C drugs. Continue reading

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Global Health News – October 24th

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Globe floating in air

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Seattle-area nurse monitored for possible Ebola infection | Local News | The Seattle Times

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The number of cases with Ebola, shown here, could double by the end of the month. There is a one in five chance it will reach the U.S. in that same time, researchers predict. Photo:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A Seattle-area nurse being monitored for possible Ebola infection has shown no sign of the disease and is voluntarily restricting her movements to minimize the risk to others, health officials say.

Editors note: Even if a person has contracted Ebola, they are not contagious if they do not have symptoms.

via Seattle-area nurse monitored for possible Ebola infection | Local News | The Seattle Times.

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Paul Allen boosts his donations to fight Ebola to $100 million, creates donation website

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Paul Allen

Paul Allen

Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist Paul G. Allen today increased his commitment to efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to at least $100 million and called on the global community to join the cause.

“The Ebola virus is unlike any health crisis we have ever experienced and needs a response unlike anything we have ever seen,” Allen said. “To effectively contain this outbreak and prevent it from becoming a global epidemic, we must pool our efforts to raise the funds, coordinate the resources and develop the creative solutions needed to combat this problem. I am committed to doing my part in tackling this crisis.”

To help individuals contribute to the effort, Allen has created crowd-sourcing website — TackleEbola.com.

The donation platform is designed to coordinate and optimize individual global giving, Allen said

Donations of all sizes will go to funding the solutions required to treat, contain and prevent the spread of Ebola.

Donors will be able to select the need that they are most interested in funding and 100 percent of that contribution will be applied to that need.

The site also offers a way for donors to view the impact of their combined contributions with updates on progress towards goals.

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Even before Ebola, hospitals struggled to beat far more common infections

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Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile

This KHN story also ran on NPR.

While Ebola stokes public anxiety, more than one in six hospitals — including some top medical centers — are having trouble stamping out less exotic but sometimes deadly infections, federal records show.

Nationally, about one in every 25 hospitalized patients gets an infection, and 75,000 people die each year from them—more than from car crashes and gun shots combined.

Nationally, about one in every 25 hospitalized patients gets an infection, and 75,000 people die from them each year.

 from themA Kaiser Health News analysis found 695 hospitals with higher than expected rates for at least one of the six types of infections tracked by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 13 states and the District of Columbia, a quarter or more of hospitals that the government evaluated were rated worse than national benchmarks the CDC set in at least one infection category, the KHN analysis found.

The missteps Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital made this month in handling an Ebola patient echo mistakes hospitals across the nation have made in dealing with homegrown infections. Continue reading

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What is the CDC’s role in the fight against Ebola?

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The Ebola epidemic in Africa and fears of it spreading in the U.S. have turned the nation’s attention to the federal government’s front-line public health agency: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But as with Ebola itself, there is much confusion about the role of the CDC and what it can and cannot do to prevent and contain the spread of disease.

The agency has broad authority under federal law, but defers to or partners with state and local health agencies in most cases.

Julie Rovner answers some common questions. 

Q: What is the CDC?

Formally renamed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1992 to reflect its broader scope (previously it was just the Centers for Disease Control), the Atlanta-based CDC is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to promote health and prevent disease, injury and premature death. CDC’s most recent budget is just under $7 billion.

Q: What is CDC’S role in combating Ebola?          

CDC personnel have been working on the ground in West Africa to try to stop the spread of Ebola since the spring, when cases began to mount. CDC Director Thomas Frieden told a congressional hearing Thursday that the agency currently has 139 staffers in West Africa, and that more than 1,000 workers have “provided logistics, staffing, communication, analytics, management and other support functions.”

Continue reading

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Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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Poll: Many unaware how Ebola is spread

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By Phil Galewitz
KHN / OCTOBER 16TH, 2014

A new survey finds the public has a lot to learn about how the Ebola virus is transmitted, which could help explain the growing fears of the disease.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that while nearly all adults (97 percent) know a person can become infected through direct contact with the blood or other body fluids of someone who is sick with Ebola, there are still misconceptions. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

One third of respondents are unaware they cannot become infected through the air. About 45 percent are unaware they cannot contract Ebola by shaking hands with someone who has been exposed to the virus but who does not have symptoms.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 8.13.55 AM

And only slightly more than a third (36 percent) of respondents know that a person must be showing Ebola symptoms to transmit the infection, the poll found.

The survey, which was fielded after a Liberian man was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas, and remained in the field after a nurse who helped care for him contracted the disease, finds most Americans say they trust local, state, and federal health authorities to contain the disease in the U.S.

The public was near evenly split on the federal government’s response to the crisis. About 45 percent said the government was doing enough to fight the disease in Africa and 48 percent said it was doing enough to protect Americans.

The telephone poll of 1,503 adults was conducted from October 8-14 and has a margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Inside a high-level biocontainment unit

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The United States Centers for Disease Control commissioned The Nebraska Medical Center biocontainment unit in 2005.

It was designed to provide the first line of treatment for people affected by bio terrorism or extremely infectious naturally occurring diseases. It’s the only non-governmental facility of its kind in the U.S.

The staff, all receive specialized training and participate in drills throughout the year. In a recent drill, the staff practiced dressing in spacesuit-like personal protection suits.

The suits provide each staff member the ability to care for an infected patient without exposing themselves. They also practice transporting an infected patient in a “bio pod” into a specially designed room inside the biocontainment unit.

The entire unit is specially isolated from the rest of the hospital, using its own ventilation system and security access.

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