Ebola Preparedness at Assisted Living Facilities, Nursing Homes
The recent death of the man from the Ebola virus who traveled from Liberia to Dallas and the two nurses who played extensive roles in his treatment and are now afflicted with the deadly disease have hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other medical facilities re-examining their emergency preparedness plans.
The elderly at assisted living facilities and nursing homes housing are at risk should they come into contact with someone with the Ebola virus who is asymptomatic. This could be from visitors to the facilities or from caregivers, particularly if they come into contact with individuals from West African countries where the virus is rapidly spreading.
Some facts: Individuals at highest risk of developing infection are those who have had direct contact with the blood and body fluids of an individual diagnosed with Ebola. According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), this includes any person who provided care for an Ebola patient, such as a healthcare provider or family member not adhering to recommended infection control precautions (i.e., not wearing recommended personal protective equipment), those who have had close physical contact with an individual diagnosed with Ebola, those who lived with or visited the Ebola-diagnosed patient while he or she was ill. Persons are not contagious before they are symptomatic. The incubation period (the time from exposure until onset of symptoms) is typically 8-10 days, but can range from 2-21 days. Symptoms in patients include fever, myalgia, severe headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Recommendations from the CDC for local preparedness for the Ebola virus include:
- A good infection control infrastructure.
- Rigorous adherence of CDC guidelines and daily monitors on updates on Ebola protocols and procedures.
- Standard protocols that address many aspects of infectious disease including isolation requirements and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Training of all clinical staff on the proper use of PPE.
- Mandatory education on Ebola and infectious disease for all clinical care staff.
Monitoring developments as they happen includes checking resources such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and local health authorities to ensure that the latest information is at your disposal. Also, establish clear policies and steps for employees to take if they are or believe they are becoming ill. And, be sure to plan for business continuity, determining contingencies if vital processes, locations, or suppliers are affected or if your employees become ill or need to work from home.
There is no reason for panic, but it’s prudent that all facilities take the appropriate measures in the event anyone at an assisted living or nursing home is infected with the Ebola virus. A review of the organization’s emergency preparedness plan and protocols is needed to protect both the patients and caregivers of a facility.
Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing comprehensive insurance solutions for assisted living facilities and nursing homes. For more information about our programs, please contact us at 877.226.1027.
Sources: CDC, Marsh