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Protecting medical workers during the Ebola scare

Over the past several weeks, the media, public health officials and lawmakers have questioned whether or not the American public should be concerned about a widespread Ebola outbreak within the United States. The general consensus seems to be that Americans have little reason to fear such a turn of events. However, the diagnosis of a nurse in Spain recently marked the first case diagnosed outside of Africa. And the death of a patient treated inside the U.S. has many individuals understandably on edge.

Should an outbreak of any significant size occur, medical workers would be among those most directly affected by the virus. When patients are hospitalized for infectious conditions, hospitals must not only protect other patients from contracting the condition but they must also protect workers from contracting the condition as well. The Ebola scare highlights just how important it is to have infectious disease protocols in place before an outbreak occurs.

If hospital administrators fail to take proper precautions and workers suffer harm as a result, these workers may be able to hold negligent parties accountable for that harm. However, an ideal world is one in which workers need not take action against their employers because their employers are so committed to safety that any harm befalling workers does not result from negligence but from extraordinarily rare, unpreventable occurrences.

If you work inside a hospital, please take time to ask about your facility’s infectious disease protocol. Even if you never come into contact with an Ebola patient, this information can help you avoid harm caused by other infectious conditions.

Source: United States Department of Labor, “Ebola,” Accessed Oct. 2014

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