By Rick Fromme
|Photo Courtesy of flanderstoday.eu|
Many of us have heard the expression, “If it bleeds, it leads,” referring to the phenomenon that with many news outlets ― online, TV, radio and print ― the more harrowing a story, the better its chance of becoming headline news.
It’s true the Ebola virus is a major health concern in West Africa and several other countries of the vast African continent. The facts are disconcerting: Africa is currently facing its worst Ebola outbreak in history, with over 1,600 officially reported cases of infection, a death toll of 880 and rising, and a startling mortality rate of up to 90%. It’s the largest-ever recorded outbreak of Ebola since the virus’ discovery in the Democratic Republic in 1976. Worse, most epidemiologists feel the disease will continue to spread throughout additional regions of the continent before it can be arrested.
However, the CDC and other leading experts are virtually unanimous in emphasizing the likelihood of Ebola spreading like wildfire across the U.S. is very low. And if a developed country such as the U.S. should experience some isolated cases, our healthcare system has the wherewithal to deal with and contain the infection (in its current state).
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Dr.Leslie Lobel, an Israeli researcher at Ben Gurion University, and one the world’s few experts and leaders in developing a vaccine against the Ebola virus, feels it’s important to understand the current etiology about this Ebola outbreak and why it’s spreading so quickly in certain parts of Africa. The American-born Lobel feels the poor security regimes of the most affected countries is one of the factors to blame for the extent of the current epidemic. Lobel points out that these countries have very “porous” borders, and their lack of quarantining methods prevents their ability to wean out the disease. Consequently, more people become infected and unknowingly spread the contagion.
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Massachusetts-based risk perception consultant David Ropeik concurs. “It’s called the ‘availability heuristic,’” Ropeik recently explained on NBC News. “It’s a mental shortcut for making sense of partial information. We have lazy brains. We don’t want to think about things in a lot of detail." However, he adds, “Dying from Ebola does suck, it’s not a good way to go. That makes it scarier.”
Thankfully, a U. S.-based pandemic of Ebola is highly unlikely. Instead of fretting disproportionately about it, what we can do is donate funds, our energies, and other altruistic measures towards helping such aid organizations and charities as Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross towards helping the afflicted in Africa. And, of course, pray for those patients and/or people whose family and friends are sick or endangered.
Wipe, Wash, Wear: New Paradigm for World-Class Healthcare
Another pathogen that continues to make headlines is the ongoing challenge of preventing the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria that's become resistant to antibiotics which were regularly used to treat common staph infections. Most MRSA infections occur in people who've been in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. When it occurs in these settings, it's known as healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). HA-MRSA infections typically are associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing or artificial joints.
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Consider the following:
The CDC reports that about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one health care-associated infection. The agency estimates two million patients suffer from hospital-acquired infections (HAI) every year and nearly 100,000 of them die. Hospital-acquired infections result in up to $4.5 billion in additional healthcare expenses annually. Furthermore, more than half of all HAIs occurred outside of the intensive care unit.
The CDC’s “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013” reports: “At least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection. Antibiotic-resistant infections can happen anywhere. Data show that most happen in the general community; however, most deaths related to antibiotic resistance happen in healthcare settings such as hospitals and nursing homes.”
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Of course, if you’re a health care provider, or if you’re looking for a health care job, especially in any of the clinical specialties, you know the prevention of healthcare facility and hospital-borne diseases is of paramount concern.
Diane Raines, Baptist Health’s Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer in Jacksonville, Florida points out that judicious and frequent hand washing remains one of the first tiers of defense against microbial spread. So, too, are the rigorous cleaning of rooms and other surfaces, appropriate use of personal protective equipment, appropriate preparation of patients for surgery, and other measures.
However, studies have found that, outside of the operating arena ― which Raines says is usually the most sterile environment of any hospital ― problematic are soft surfaces, such as uniforms and scrubs, even doctors’ ubiquitous white coats, because they serve as vectors for the spread of organisms in many settings, especially acute care. Last February, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America issued several recommendations to prevent transmission of healthcare-associated infections from healthcare personnel attire.
Furthering its proactive mission as one of the nation’s leading healthcare systems, this past July, Baptist Health in Jacksonville became the first health system in the world to widely adopt specialized staff uniforms to repel fluids and minimize the risk of transmission of organisms. As part of its continued commitment to patient safety, Baptist Health partnered with Orlando’s Vestagen Technical Textiles, a global innovator in the development of advanced textile technologies.
|Photo Courtesy of Vestagen Technical Textiles|
Are Your Scrubs a Carrier or a Barrier?
The fabric’s fluid barrier binds to individual fibers, resulting in material that’s highly repellent to bodily fluids, water, oil and dirt. This high repellency has been shown to synergize with Vestagen’s embedded antimicrobial technology to prevent organisms from being acquired and retained on the fabric. “It reduces the bio-burden of our hospital staff’s uniforms,” Raines says.
|Photo Courtesy of Baptist Health|
More than 30,000 pieces of Vestex’s staff uniforms, lab coats and scrub jackets are being distributed in phase one and will feature Vestex textile technology. Over 6,000 Baptist Health inpatient staff, with frequent patient contact employees, including nursing, imaging, respiratory therapy, and environmental service members, have been transitioned into the new uniforms. Staff uniforms are also color-coded by function so patients can more easily recognize who is caring for them per specialty. While wearing the uniforms was voluntary throughout mid-July and August, on September 1, all staff will be required to wear the Vestex clothing, explains Raines.
“The initial rollout includes Baptist Jacksonville, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Baptist Nassau, Baptist Beaches, Baptist South, Baptist Clay Medical Campus, and Baptist Home Health Agency,” Raines says. Other Baptist-owned facilities, such as its ancillary Baptist Cancer Institute and several neighborhood outpatient clinics and physicians offices have also expressed an interest in the high-tech uniforms.
Vestex Scrub Repelling Water and Fluids. Courtesy of Baptist Health
“In addition to our new staff uniforms, in late September and through October, we’ll be rolling out patient apparel featuring the same technology,” Raines continues. “We’re providing upgraded hospital gowns, with a double-enclosed back, more pockets and access apertures, as well providing our new ‘basketball’ tops and shorts to patients that don’t require a gown.” This will be another landmark move for Baptist Health Jacksonville as it will also be the first to have Vestex patient apparel as well.
|Photo Courtesy of Baptist Health|
“Patients ages one year and older will receive newly-designed apparel made from Vestex-protected fabric that provides them with dignity as well as protection.” She emphasizes that, “Baptist Health is not making the change because of a problem with infection, but to be proactive in our use of technology to enhance our environment. The technology is part of a broader safety strategy designed to reduce exposure to pathogens.”
The more than $1 million Baptist Health Jacksonville has invested in providing Vestex staff uniforms and patient garments represents its commitment to safety and its brand promise of “Changing Health Care for Good.”
In this article, I discussed two of the pathogens that have been in the news as of late: the Ebola virus and MRSA. I pointed out that while Ebola remains a challenge for several portions of Africa, the actuality of it becoming widespread in the U.S. remains remote. MRSA on the other hand, continues to be an ongoing concern. This article continues by sharing an innovative step that Baptist Health Jacksonville has taken in partnership with Vestagen Technical Textiles to widely adopt specialized staff uniforms to repel fluids and minimize the risk of transmission of infectious diseases. If you found this article useful, please feel free to share and repost it. If you have any questions or comments, as always, I’m eager to read them.
Rick Fromme combines entrepreneurial enthusiasm with an insider's knowledge of the medical industry to co-found MedMasters.com. Both his drive and perspective helps provide health care professionals with a superior mechanism with which to communicate, network and market their strengths. Prior to founding MedMasters.com, Rick operated a highly successful medical device distributorship. Other milestones in his 12-year career in the medical industry include a key position at a medical device start-up company that was later sold to the Ethicon Endo division of Johnson & Johnson. You may also reach Rick by connecting with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube.