How Did A Hospital In Omaha Become Key To Fighting Global Pandemics?
In the early 2000s a group of doctors and scientists came up with the idea of creating a biocontainment unit in Omaha, Nebraska. Not everyone was on board at the time, calling it "overkill." But nearly two decades of epidemics have proved the skeptics wrong.
The New York Times:
First Ebola, Now Coronavirus. Why An Omaha Hospital Gets The Toughest Cases.
In the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, officials at Nebraska Medical Center envisioned a time when the nation would need a large, secure treatment center to guard against the threats of bioterrorism and infectious diseases. They spent $1 million to transform an empty wing of the hospital into a 10-bed biocontainment unit, complete with concrete walls, filtered air and video links to the nursing station. Then they waited. The beds sat empty for years, until an Ebola outbreak in 2014. The unit became a central player in treating Americans returning from West Africa with the lethal disease. Nurses wearing face shields, water-resistant gowns and three pairs of surgical gloves treated three Ebola patients. When that threat subsided, the unit returned to being a quiet ward used only for training and planning. (Mervosh, 2/18)
The Associated Press:
Why Treat People Exposed To Virus In Omaha? Why Not?
Of all places, why are 13 people potentially exposed to a viral outbreak being treated and observed in Omaha, Nebraska? Because nearly 20 years ago, a few doctors, public health experts and officials realized that nearly no one was meeting a national need for such specialized care and figured, why not Omaha? “We all wanted to build a better mousetrap,” said Dr. Phil Smith, an infectious disease expert who led the effort to create the biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medical Center. (McFetridge, 2/18)
In other coronavirus news from the states —
The Wall Street Journal:
Coronavirus Has U.S. Cities Stretching To Monitor Self-Quarantined Americans
Public-health officials in the U.S. are striving to keep tabs on thousands of Americans who have quarantined themselves at home after returning from mainland China to curtail the new coronavirus, adding to an epidemic response that is straining already-stretched local departments. More than 5,400 people had been asked to self-quarantine in California alone as of Feb. 14, according to the California Department of Public Health. Hundreds more are self-quarantining in Georgia, Washington state, Illinois, New York and other states. (Abbott, 2/19)
Private, Charter Jet Companies Report Uptick In Business Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
With many commercial flights to and from mainland China suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, charter and private jet operators say it's been "all systems go" for them amid the global health emergency. Once thought to be reserved for ultra-wealthy jetsetters, these planes have also been recruited by governments to repatriate foreigners within China or to send medical supplies to the impacted region. (Thorbecke, 2/18)
Coronavirus Halts FDA Inspections In China, Might Disrupt Drug Supply
The Food and Drug Administration has pulled inspectors from China amid the rapidly-spreading coronavirus and has warned Americans might face shortages of “critical medical products” if the outbreak persists. The federal agency halted inspections of drug and device factories due to the State Department warning against travel to China. The FDA has faced Congressional scrutiny for its oversight of overseas factories following high-profile recalls of blood pressure-lowering medications and reports revealing fewer overseas inspections in recent years. (Alltucker and O'Donnell, 2/18)
Nebraska Doctors Are Providing Coronavirus Patients With Chicken Soup And Tylenol
University of Nebraska Medical Center doctors aren't just providing top tier medical care to coronavirus patients, they're also supporting them as they battle the symptoms. It's why Dr. Mark Rupp, UNMC's division of infectious diseases chief, told CNN Tuesday the hospital is providing patients with chicken soup and antipyretics, or anti-fever medicine like Tylenol or Motrin. (Vera and Watt, 2/19)
School Districts Grapple With Quarantines, Face Masks And Fear
In one school district, families are pulling their kids out of school. In others, students show up in face masks.Educators in one Southern California community agreed to suspend an exchange program to keep visiting Chinese students out of quarantine. School districts across the U.S., particularly those with large Asian American populations, have scrambled to respond to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,800 people and sickened tens of thousands more, almost all in China. (Almendrala, 2/18)