Ebola has been a historically deadly virus in regions of Africa. Recently, there have been cases of the virus in the United States. The current manifestation of the virus is especially dangerous, due to its long incubation period prior to symptoms appearing. The incubation period allows those who are infected to travel far from the site where they contracted the virus, without ever knowing that they were sick in the first place. This is part of the reason why the Ebola virus poses such a challenge for nursing staff readiness in the United States.
Due to the unique challenges posed by Ebola, American nurses need to be trained to identify potential carriers of the disease, as well as safety precautions that are necessary in handling those who have been infected. An elevated temperature is one of the first symptoms expressed in a contagious Ebola patient. However, this symptom is shared with an enumerable amount of other conditions. So one of the first things to do, in identifying if the Ebola virus is a possibility, is to find out whether the patient has traveled to regions where the outbreak has occurred within the last 21 days. The Ebola virus only spreads through direct contact with the fluids of a person who is both infected with the virus and currently contagious.
The CDC has established guidelines for the handling of Ebola patients by American hospitals. These guidelines are diseased to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to other people. However, they are not fool proof, as evidenced by the fact that multiple healthcare workers have contracted the virus in the United States, while dealing with Ebola patients. This further illustrates the level of precaution and preparedness that is needed to adequately address the virus, and to minimize its potential to spread.
The ability of nursing staff readiness to help immediately identify and isolate patients who are infected with the Ebola virus is perhaps the most important role they can perform in fighting the spread of the disease. However, nurses will also be called upon to help treat those who are already known to be infected.