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Ebola infection control workshop

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Confirmation that a nurse treating an Ebola patient in a Texas hospital has contracted the disease, and the Ebola scare for an Australian Red Cross volunteer recently returned from the epicentre of the outbreak in west Africa, has highlighted the risk of infection faced by health workers combating the virus’s spread.

As health authorities investigate how the Texas nurse caught the virus, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr Tom Friedan said “clearly there was a breach in protocol.”

Dr Friedan said that decades of dealing with Ebola outbreaks had shown that the established protocols “work”, but that “even a single lapse in protocol can result in infection”.

The infection of the nurse, who had been equipped with protective gear, including during periods of often intense care for Liberian man Thomas Duncan, who died from Ebola in a Texas hospital, has raised fears about its possible spread to countries beyond the African continent.

But infection control experts remain confident that health workers wearing protective gear who diligently follow protocols can minimise the risk of contracting the disease.

A workshop to give health workers and others planning to travel to west Africa to contribute to the global response to the emergency a full run-down of infection control protocols and practical preparation tips has been organised by the Australian Response MAE Network.

The free one-day workshop, to be held at the University of New South Wales’ School of Public Health and Community Medicine on 24 October, will cover topics including hospital infection control, personal protective equipment, hand hygiene, clinical features of Ebola, updates on experimental drugs and vaccines, and tips of what to pack.

“Given the high rate of health worker infections in the west African outbreak, there is clearly a major occupational health and safety risk,” the workshop organisers said. “The workshop is intended to fill gaps in routine training provided by deploying agencies.”

For more information, and to register your interest, contact ARM administration at info@arm.org.au

Adrian Rollins