As Ebola virus has infected thousands of individuals in West Africa, there is growing concern about the appropriate response of hospitals in developed nations caring for patients and handling laboratory specimens for patients suspected of Ebola virus disease (EVD). Guidelines for caring for EVD patients are proliferating rapidly from national and state public health authorities, professional societies, and individual hospitals. It is no surprise that they differ from one another, and some very conservative recommendations call for suspension of routine laboratory testing, including pretransfusion testing. EVD is transmitted by direct contact with blood, secretions, organs, and other body fluids and not by airborne routes. Based on experimental and observational data, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that clinicians follow contact and droplet precautions. Laboratory personnel are required to follow the blood-borne pathogen standard, especially the use of appropriate barriers consisting of gloves, gown, goggles, mask to cover nose and mouth, and plexiglass shield, where splashes of potentially infectious materials may be generated. Their recommendations are permissive of clinically appropriate laboratory testing, including pretransfusion testing, using barrier isolation precautions. Most individuals with suspected EVD will have a fever of another etiology, such as Plasmodium falciparum malaria. We believe that forgoing all routine pretransfusion laboratory testing may result in a greater increase in poor clinical outcomes than any diminution in the risks to laboratory personnel will justify. It is imperative for all laboratory directors, working with institutional infection control and safety personnel, to evaluate their hospital policies for potentially infectious patients and provide a safe environment for their patients and employees.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy