Assessing and Reducing Risk to Healthcare Workers in Outbreaks

Item Type:

Publication

Title

Assessing and Reducing Risk to Healthcare Workers in Outbreaks

Description

The 2014-2016 West African Ebola epidemic was devastating in many respects, not least of which was the impact on healthcare systems and their health workforce. Healthcare workers—including physicians, clinical officers, nurses, midwives, and community health workers—serve on the front lines of efforts to detect, control, and stop the spread of disease.

Date Last Updated (Year-Month-Day)

2020-06

Citation

Wilkason, Colby, Christopher Lee, Lauren M. Sauer, Jennifer Nuzzo, and Amanda McClelland. 2020. "Assessing and Reducing Risk to Healthcare Workers in Outbreaks." Health security 18 (3):205-11.

Abstract

The 2014-2016 West African Ebola epidemic was devastating in many respects, not least of which was the impact on healthcare systems and their health workforce. Healthcare workers—including physicians, clinical officers, nurses, midwives, and community health workers—serve on the front lines of efforts to detect, control, and stop the spread of disease. Risk mitigation strategies, including infection prevention and control (IPC) practices, are meant to keep healthcare workers safe from occupational exposure to disease and to protect patients from healthcare-associated infections. Despite ongoing IPC efforts, steady rates of both healthcare-associated and healthcare worker infections signal that these mitigation measures have been inadequate at all levels and present a potential critical point of failure in efforts to limit and control the spread of outbreaks. The fact that healthcare workers continue to be infected or are a source of infection during public health emergencies reveals a weakness in global preparedness efforts. Identification of key points of failure—both within the health system and during emergencies—is the first step to mitigating risk of exposure. A 2-pronged solution is proposed to address long-term gaps in the health system that impact infection control and emergency response: prioritization of IPC for epidemic preparedness at a global level and development and use of rapid risk assessments to prioritize risk mitigation strategies for IPC. Without global support, evidence, and systems in place to support the lives of healthcare workers, the lives of their patients and the health system in general are also at risk.

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