Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

N.J. Hospitals Are Well Prepared for Public Health Threats

Guest blog by Aline Holmes, RN, DNP, Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs

It’s hard to miss the news reports about Ebola and enterovirus (EV-D68). People are understandably nervous and anxious. But New Jersey residents can rest assured that our hospitals are well prepared to deal with these types of public health threats. In fact, they have been preparing for months, in close cooperation with public health authorities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the N.J. Department of Health.

Remember that Ebola actually arrived on U.S. soil almost two months ago when Emory Healthcare leaders in Georgia decided to fly in a pair of missionaries who’d gotten ill treating Ebola patients in Africa.

Ebola is not an air-borne disease. It’s spread through fluids – not casual contact – so that helps limit its spread. Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Wash hands frequently and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids (sweat, vomit, diarrhea, saliva, semen, etc.) of any person, particularly someone who is sick.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.

The enterovirus is different; it’s an airborne virus, meaning that it can be transmitted through contact with an infected person or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.  EV-D68 likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others. Good hand hygiene is your best defense against getting infected with enterovirus:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers. Hand sanitizers are not effective against enteroviruses.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cup or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Stay home from work or school if you’re sick or running a fever.

Our hospitals and healthcare providers routinely follow precautionary procedures such as wearing gloves, gowns, masks and other protective gear to prevent spreading infections when caring for patients. All of our hospitals are equipped to isolate patients as needed and help prevent a virus from spreading. And all are well primed by public health officials to be on the watch for Ebola and enterovirus D68, based on many factors including a patient’s recent travels.

Our healthcare system is taking these public health emergencies very seriously. Our healthcare professionals know how to recognize these illnesses. And they know how to care for patients infected with them.


Written by Aline Holmes at 00:00
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