Laboratory and Hospital Ebola Response

Laboratories are currently scrambling to define and put into place procedures for dealing with processing and testing of samples from highly infectious patients. The CDC has guidelines for healthcare workers and for laboratories specifically (http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/index.html). They also are very willing to help. Because Dallas had actual cases of Ebola, our hospital in Dallas mounted a hospital-wide response, in which the CDC and Texas State and County Health Departments were involved early on and throughout. This blog post describes the plans we instituted.

It quickly became clear that we did not want to transport infectious material through the hospital if we could avoid it, keeping everything infectious isolated in a single area. The hospital cleared an ICU wing which contained two negative pressure rooms, and the laboratory used an ICU room two doors away to create a mini-lab. The entire ICU wing was closed off as an isolation zone. No samples will leave the isolation zone unless they are headed for the CDC or State lab, and those will be couriered directly from the isolation zone.

All testing that can be, will be done on the I-stat in the patient room, including electrolytes, BUN, creatinine, ionized calcium and blood gases. A meeting was held with the ICU physicians who will be treating patients, to ask what testing they could foresee requiring other than those available on the I-stat. Their final list included platelets, CBC and coag tests, and originally also asked for ammonia and liver function tests. The only test we could not provide for them was ammonia. We couldn’t find a way to perform ammonia on a whole blood sample and had decided not to centrifuge any samples due to the possible risks of aerosolizing the sample and additional risks associated with aliquotting samples.

For the coag tests, we chose to use the I-stat PT/INR. Knowing that PT/INR on the I-stat is not FDA approved for anything other than Coumadin monitoring, we performed a full CLIA validation of the PT/INR in order to be able to use it for Ebola patients. Using the I-stat this way causes the PT/INR to become a high-complexity test, therefore only those individuals with appropriate licensure, training and competency will be performing the test at bedside.

Testing other than what is available on the I-stat will be done in the mini-lab set up in the nearby ICU room. It will be performed by lab personnel in full PPE, including PAPR (powered air purifying respirators), 3 layers of gloves, etc, all within the isolation zone. Lab testing in the mini-lab will occur once a day, with a possibility of twice a day. We purchased an Abaxis Piccolo for performing the liver enzymes and a Sysmex pocH-100i for the CBC and platelets. Both these analyzers will be run in the mini-lab room. The piccolo will be run inside a biosafety cabinet (BSC) which was put in the room because the piccolo is not a closed system. Sample pipetting into the piccolo carousel will occur in the BSC.

As far as blood utilization, the plan is to perform a one time, ABO only, blood typing on admission of a patient. A blood bank technologist in full PPE will perform the ABO only blood type manually in the BSC in the mini-lab. This ABO only typing has also been validated on samples allowed to settle rather than being centrifuged. The plan is for any patients to receive type O-negative blood if transfusions are required. However if they should require type-specific blood products for any reason (i.e. shortage of O-negative), it was felt that performing the blood type early before viral titers are really high would be better than waiting.

To work in the isolation wing, personnel must don full isolation PPE, including PAPR, etc, with a multi-step system in place for both donning and doffing the equipment. A buddy system is used throughout, with training on all procedures being continuous. The lab personnel who have volunteered to staff the mini-lab have undergone the PPE training. All of this perhaps excessive care is being taken in order to protect all other patients, as well as all healthcare team members, both lab and non-lab. Although Ebola may never reach our hospital, we live in a world where global travel makes if very likely that we will see patients with this or other highly infectious diseases appear in our facilities. It’s important to be as prepared as possible.

 

-Patti Jones PhD, DABCC, FACB, is the Clinical Director of the Chemistry and Metabolic Disease Laboratories at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX and a Professor of Pathology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

 

CDC Press Release–Passenger Notification

CDC and Frontier Airlines Announce Passenger Notification Underway

On the morning of Oct. 14, the second healthcare worker reported to the hospital with a low-grade fever and was isolated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that the second healthcare worker who tested positive last night for Ebola traveled by air Oct. 13, the day before she reported symptoms.

Because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning, CDC is reaching out to passengers who flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth Oct. 13.

CDC is asking all 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on October 13 (the flight route was Cleveland to Dallas Fort Worth and landed at 8:16 p.m. CT) to call 1 800-CDC INFO (1 800 232-4636). After 1 p.m. ET, public health professionals will begin interviewing passengers about the flight, answering their questions, and arranging follow up. Individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.

The healthcare worker exhibited no signs or symptoms of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew. Frontier is working closely with CDC to identify and notify passengers who may have traveled on flight 1143 on Oct. 13.  Passengers who may have traveled on flight 1143 should contact CDC at 1 800-CDC INFO (1 800 232-4636).

 

Frontier Airlines Statement

 “At approximately 1:00 a.m. MT on October 15, Frontier was notified by the CDC that a customer traveling on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13 has since tested positive for the Ebola virus. The flight landed in Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:16 p.m. local and remained overnight at the airport having completed its flying for the day at which point the aircraft received a thorough cleaning per our normal procedures which is consistent with CDC guidelines prior to returning to service the next day. It was also cleaned again in Cleveland last night. Previously the customer had traveled from Dallas Fort Worth to Cleveland on Frontier flight 1142 on October 10.

Customer exhibited no symptoms or sign of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew. Frontier responded immediately upon notification from the CDC by removing the aircraft from service and is working closely with CDC to identify and contact customers who may traveled on flight 1143.

Customers who may have traveled on either flight should contact CDC at 1 800 CDC-INFO.

The safety and security of our customers and employees is our primary concern. Frontier will continue to work closely with CDC and other governmental agencies to ensure proper protocols and procedures are being followed.”

Confirmed Case of Ebola Diagnosed in the United States

CNN is reporting that a patient in Dallas, Texas is the first person diagnosed with Ebola Virus in the United States.

According to the CDC, the patient traveled to the United States from Liberia on 9/19-9/20. The patient exhibited symptoms on 9/24, sought care on 9/26, and was admitted to the hospital on 9/28. Today, the CDC received and tested samples from the patient and confirmed the presence of the Ebola Virus by PCR methodologies.

The CDC and the Dallas County Health and Human Services will conduct contact interviews to determine if the patient may have had contact with anyone while infectious. If any contacts are identified, they will be quarantined and monitored for 21 days (the longest known incubation period for the virus).

CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH says, “I have no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”

Be that as it may, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Lab professionals and pathologists should be familiar with the CDC’s Ebola information page.

Ebola Information for Laboratory Professionals

While it’s unlikely you will ever encounter a case of Ebola, it’s best to be prepared. The CDC has a health advisory page full of information, including specimen requirements for Ebola testing. The laboratory’s first step is to contact their state health department.

 

 

CDC Interview About Ebola

Medscape interviewed the CDC about the current Ebola outbreak. In it, the CDC reiterates that healthcare workers are at particular risk for infection. While the interview doesn’t specifically mention laboratory professionals, of course they are included in that risk group. Protect yourself using standard precautions (sometimes called contact or droplet precautions). This includes gloves, gowns, face mask, and eye protection when handling specimens from a potential victim.

You can read the entire interview here.

 

Laboratory Response to the Ebola Outbreak

You may have heard in the news over the past few months that there has been an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. The first registered case was in Guinea in February of 2014. Reports have since noted the spread of the virus to other areas in Guinea, as well as Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of June 24, the CDC noted on their website that ministries of health in the three countries have reported 390 cases in Guinea (this includes 270 fatalities and 260 laboratory confirmed cases); Sierra Leone had 147 laboratory confirmed cases with 34 fatalities; and Liberia reported 34 laboratory confirmed cases and 34 fatal cases.

Genetic analyses of the confirmed cases show that this strain of the virus is closely related (97 percent) to variants of the virus that have been previously identified in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Response to the outbreak is difficult for many reasons, including the lack of medical and laboratory resources in the regions where it has been discovered. The WHO and other partners have deployed laboratory experts to staff mobile field laboratories in order to provide accurate testing to confirm cases. Other specialized medical personnel have been deployed to treat affected patients and provide education to local communities. There are reports, however, of local medical personnel in Liberia not showing up at work due to fear of contracting the virus because they say they lack the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to adequately protect themselves.

Spread of the virus has been attributed to the ease of contagion in densely populated cities (such as Conakry, Guinea), local traditions and beliefs that have resulted in lack of quarantine and/or removing patients from medical care, and the porous borders and ease of border crossings in the West African region. However, some countries have taken various measures to close borders or restrict movement across borders. The CDC, WHO and MSF (known as Doctors Without Borders in the US) are working with partners on the ground to lead the response to the outbreak.

 

Levy

-Marie Levy spent over five years working at American Society for Clinical Pathology in the Global Outreach department.