How UPMC Presbyterian prepares for an Ebola patient: 6 things to know

For the last three years, clinicians at UPMC Presbyterian's emergency room in Pittsburgh have practiced Ebola protection protocols using actors playing Ebola-stricken patients, according to WHYY.

Here are six things to know:

1. This protection protocol can be substituted for any highly infectious disease, but the staff first created the procedure during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, collaborating with law enforcement, EMTs and UPMC medical staff.

2.To start the simulation, all other ambulances in the area are diverted while the ambulance containing the actor, playing the infected patient, speeds to the emergency room.

3. After arriving at the hospital, UPMC staff unload the actor from the ambulance in a portable isolation pod. Two nurses wearing hazmat suits disinfect the outside of the pod with bleaching wipes.

"They're trying to use it as another kind of infection control measure. That's another barrier," Gavin Harris, MD, a fellow in critical care and infectious disease at University of Pittsburgh's department of medicine  told WHYY. “We're kind of doing everything we can. Our hope is that any sort of little thing we can do might be able to help.”

4. The actor inside the pod is transported to a room build with special ventilation system, filtering the air. Once taken out of the pod, clinicians take the actor's vitals.

5. Leaders monitoring the drill give the actor a bag of red-hued vomit. The actor throws up onto the floor to catch the healthcare team off guard. The nurses spring into action, cleaning it up and disinfecting the area. Red vomit suggested the possibility of internal bleeding.

“Blood of a patient with Ebola contains 10 million virus particles in every milliliter of blood. It’s very, highly infectious,” Bill Pasculle, ScD, director of UPMC's clinical microbiology laboratories told WHYY. “[Compared to the flu] that’s 1,000 times more.”

6. The fake virus stricken patient, fake vomit and fake testing is just one way healthcare teams can arm themselves in disease prevention, through repetition and practice.

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