Disaster medicine experts examine Ebola preparations

October 08, 2014

When the World Health Organization announced in early August that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was an international health emergency, Dr. Kristi L Koenig began anticipating the “what ifs.”

Her response: “Ebola Virus Disease: Essential Public Health Principles for Clinicians,” an article which describes the basic principles for diagnosing and treating Ebola patients while ensuring staff safety. Written in collaboration with colleagues Dr. Cassondra Majestic and Dr. Michael J. Burns, the article was published Sept. 19 in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.

“I just had the feeling that Ebola was going to become a major topic of public discussion, similar to the situation with the H1N1 virus in 2009,” Koenig said. “I wrote the article to increase awareness that there are basic health principles that are valid for every infectious disease.”

An internationally recognized expert, Koenig is director of the UC Irvine Center for Disaster Medical Sciences, professor of emergency medicine, director of public health preparedness at the University of California, Irvine, and an attending physician in the emergency department at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.

“We are always prepared, especially in managing all kinds of infectious diseases,” Koenig said. “Orange County is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, and UC Irvine Medical Center is the major trauma center in the county.”

Like other hospitals throughout the nation, UC Irvine Medical Center follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolation and infection control recommendations for safely treating potential patients with the Ebola virus. Preparation efforts included assembling kits containing personal protective equipment for staff, warning signs for isolation units, and information on patient precautions, transportation and placement.

At UC Irvine, training for handling health emergencies is part of the routine.

“We prepare for hazards of all types on a regular basis,” Koenig said. “We conduct exercises for handling various viruses, such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and also practice drills for medical response to a natural disaster such as an earthquake.”

Read more about UC Irvine Medical Center’s Ebola virus preparation ›

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