Actors simulate an emergency department nurse caring for a patient presenting symptoms of Ebola.
Actors simulate an emergency department nurse caring for a patient presenting symptoms of Ebola. (Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Medicine)

A patient makes her way into a hospital emergency department looking feverish and says she feels sick.

Asked whether she has traveled overseas in the past few weeks, she says she went to a funeral in Sierra Leone, a country hard hit by the Ebola epidemic. A triage nurse is summoned and the patient is escorted to a private room. Workers keep a 3-foot distance.

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It's one mock scenario included in a new set of four Web-based training videos developed by Johns Hopkins Medicine and other medical organizations and available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The videos aim to train doctors, nurses and others in the proper way to handle patients who show up at their hospital with serious infectious diseases.

"The world is a very small place, and there are lots of serious communicable diseases," said Dr. J. Lee Jenkins, a Hopkins expert in emergency medicine and disaster preparedness who helped develop the videos.

"Emergency departments need to be ready to screen not just for Ebola but other serious infectious diseases," said Jenkins, an assistant professor in Hopkins emergency medicine department. "A lot of hospitals realize they need to be asking questions."

Those involved with producing the videos said about 130 million Americans visit emergency departments each year, carrying many diseases.

Ebola was the impetus for the videos, but in recent years there have been outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome and the H1N1 flu strain, Jenkins said. Now measles is spreading.

All were probably brought to the United States from overseas, share fever as a symptom and are contagious, making questions for patients and procedures similar, Jenkins said. The videos show workers how to prepare to identify, triage and manage diseases.

Many hospitals had already developed protocols during the Ebola outbreak, and Maryland designated hospitals in October to care for patients with confirmed cases. They are Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Maryland Medical Center and MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia.

Christopher Garrett, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said those hospitals remain the designated Ebola hospitals, but there are not designated facilities for other infectious diseases. And those with Ebola still could enter any hospital in their community.

The Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality used CDC money and guidelines to develop the videos, along with experts from the medical system and the university. Also contributing were the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Emergency Nurses Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, and the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies at Miami University in Ohio.

Hopkins also helped produce videos to help health care workers understand how to properly use personal protective equipment. That initially helped hospitals after two nurses caring for a Liberian with Ebola became infected last year.

Officials said the new videos can help hospitals ensure that they have all the proper procedures and equipment in place, even if they have already developed a plan.

Matthew F. Powers, president of the Emergency Nurses Association, said the visual format appeals to many nurses and allows them to "critically think about various realistic patient scenarios" involving Ebola and other infectious diseases.

He said nurses "are at the front line when emerging infectious diseases present, so it's critical that we continue to engage in preparedness planning and continuing education."

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