Posts Tagged ‘WHO’


Ebola, One Year Later: What We Learned for the Next Big Epidemic

November 6, 2015

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

Scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from an infected VERO E6 cell (35,000x magnification). Credit: NIAID

Scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles budding from an infected VERO E6 cell (35,000x magnification). Credit: NIAID

U.S. hospitals have not seen a case of Ebola virus disease since November 11, 2014, when Dr. Craig Spencer was discharged from Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. While the number of new infections has declined dramatically in the West African countries where the 2014–2015 epidemic began, it is virtually certain that the disease will continue to resurface.

This epidemic was by far the largest and most geographically widespread Ebola epidemic to date, with approximately 28,000 cases (suspected, probable, or confirmed) and more than 11,000 deaths in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the three hardest-hit countries. The seven other countries affected account for a combined total of 34 confirmed (and two probable) cases and 15 deaths.

According to a recent WHO report, these numbers include (through March of this year) 815 confirmed or probable cases among health care workers, more than half of whom were nurses or nurses’ aides. (Doctors and medical students made up about 12% of total health care worker cases.)

This epidemic has been, for some, a wake-up call about the ease of global disease transmission. The ever-increasing movement of humans and animals over and between continents has created what virologist Nathan Wolfe refers to as a “giant microbial mixing vessel.” Before U.S. health care collides with the next deadly virus, it might be helpful to review some of what we’ve learned from these events.

  • As Paul Farmer, a physician with decades of experience in outbreak control, emphasized late last year: “weak health systems, not unprecedented virulence or a previously unknown mode of transmission, are to blame for Ebola’s rapid spread.”
  • People with Ebola are more likely to survive when they have access to critical care services—care that is unavailable (or inaccessible) in many countries.
  • In monitoring the first large cohort of Ebola survivors, we are learning about possible residual effects of Ebola, including eye pain, blurred vision, hearing loss, swallowing difficulties, arthralgias, sleep problems, neurological changes, and memory loss and confusion. The virus can persist in semen for at least nine months. Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, developed meningitis last month, 10 months after she was thought to have recovered from the infection. Ebola virus was detected in her cerebral spinal fluid.
  • More than 30 years ago, people with HIV and the nurses who cared for them were often shunned by family, friends, and coworkers. Neither Ebola nor HIV is spread by casual contact (here’s CDC information on what’s known about transmission risks), but experience during this Ebola epidemic has shown that people with “new” or “scary” infections continue to be stigmatized, even by health care workers.
  • Many nurses had not been using long-standing personal protective equipment (PPE) donning and doffing protocols in everyday practice—there was a scramble to reemphasize these protocols after the first case of Ebola arrived in the U.S.
  • Years of “bottom line” management in U.S. hospitals have left many facilities with inadequate staff, fewer education and training resources, and multiple systems issues that have impeded disaster preparedness and compromised the quality of protective gear and other supplies available to staff.
  • Content-hungry print and electronic media interfere with evidence-based responses to infectious disease threats when they pander to fear and hysteria. The damage during this epidemic ranged from unnecessary quarantine of asymptomatic individuals to willful denials of actual transmission risk in the U.S. to euthanizing the dog of a Spanish nurse after she contracted Ebola.

Read the rest of this entry ?


MERS: Where Are We Now and What Do Nurses Need to Know?

June 15, 2015
WHO map of MERS cases by country

WHO map of MERS cases by country. Click to enlarge.

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) first emerged in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Until last month, most MERS cases have occurred in that country. But on May 20, South Korea reported its first laboratory-confirmed case of MERS, in a 68-year-old man who had recently returned from a business trip to the Middle East.

The diagnosis was made only after the man had visited four health care facilities since his return home. This resulted in nosocomial transmission to other patients, health care workers, and visitors. To date, the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Health has identified 108 cases of MERS in South Korea. Nine patients (all with serious preexisting health conditions) have died.

The WHO notes that all of these cases are epidemiologically linked to the index case. That is, there is no evidence that a new “reservoir” of MERS virus has suddenly surfaced in South Korea—all cases thus far stem from the Korean traveler who acquired his infection while visiting the Arabian Peninsula.

This is the largest outbreak of MERS so far outside of the Middle East, and therefore a reason for some concern. However, person-to-person transmission of MERS is not new, and there has as yet been no sustained community transmission in South Korea or elsewhere. Readers may recall that two U.S. hospitals safely diagnosed and managed patients with MERS during the spring of 2014. These two unrelated cases in the U.S. were imported via health care providers who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia. The patients were isolated and successfully treated at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, and Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando, Florida, and there was no further transmission of the virus.

In response to the South Korean outbreak, the CDC has updated its case definition for “patients under investigation” to include a history of having been in a health care facility (as patient, worker, or visitor) in South Korea within 14 days of symptom onset. Read the rest of this entry ?


Dispatch #2 from Melbourne: Dues, Election Results, Nursing at the WHO

May 21, 2013

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, Australia

There’s lots happening at the International Council of Nurses (ICN) meeting and I’ve logged more walking miles here in Melbourne in the last two days than I do in a week at home.

Judith Shamian

Judith Shamian

On Monday, the Council of National Representatives (CNR), the ICN’s governing body, announced election results. Judith Shamian, a well-known Canadian nursing leader, was elected the 27th president of the ICN. (For more information about Judith and other election results, read this press release.)

The CNR also agreed to address issues related to membership models and will move forward with a plan designed to support inclusiveness and membership growth in national associations. The plan also includes a tiered voting model that takes membership and percentage of membership into account. (The final vote will take place at the 2015 Congress).


Rosemary Bryant

New dues scheme: will RCN return? The CNR approved a new scheme for dues that should address the issue that led the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to withhold dues, resulting in its suspension from the ICN and its recent vote to withdraw from the ICN. According to ICN president Rosemary Bryant, Norway and Japan, who were also unhappy with their dues payments, were pleased with the new model. She is hopeful that the RCN will be as well. (A podcast interview with Bryant can be listened to at our podcast conversations page here.)

I spoke with David Benton, chief executive officer of the ICN, about the RCN’s two-year suspension. According to Benton, the ICN had no choice. “The RCN made a unilateral decision in 2010 with no attempt to negotiate another resolution,” he said. He added that as a long-time member and a fellow of the RCN, he’s personally saddened by its decision to withdraw from the ICN. He noted that only a small portion of RCN’s dues goes to ICN membership and that other countries with far less resources continue to support the ICN’s work. He, too, is hopeful that the changes recently approved by the CNR will prompt the RCN to reconsider its position.

Meanwhile, two new associations were admitted to the ICN: the Chinese Nurses Association and the Palestinian Nursing and Midwifery Association (read more here).

Invisible nurses at the WHO. Another issue, not new but perhaps one that is coming to a head, is the “eradication of nursing expertise at the WHO.” Nursing positions, especially leadership posts, have been disappearing from the WHO headquarters and regional offices and are now at an all-time low of 0.6% (down from 2.6% in 2000).  (See AJN‘s July 2011 editorial and July 2012 report on this.) According to a document issued Monday, the CNR “calls upon the WHO Director General to urgently reinstate the vacant positions of WHO Chief Nursing Scientist  at WHO headquarters and urges regional directors to retain and strengthen senior nursing advisor positions in their regions.”

I also attended several interesting sessions: Read the rest of this entry ?


International Recruitment of Nurses: A Look at the Industry and Voluntary Codes of Ethics

June 7, 2010

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN interim editor-in-chief

Pasig River, Manila, Philippines, by ibarra_svd / Bar Fabella, via Flickr

A significant number of foreign-educated nurses (FENs) come to the United States each year to work; although the exact number is unknown, consider that in 2009 alone, more than 14,000 FENs passed the NCLEX exam for licensure to practice here. Many come because they’ve been actively recruited by firms acting as agents for hospitals and nursing homes; others come on their own. Some are recruited from developing countries that, because of severe internal nursing shortages, can ill afford to send qualified nurses abroad. And some FENs learn that what they expected—or were led to expect—doesn’t match what they actually find when they arrive.

In the June issue of AJN, you’ll find a comprehensive study examining the international nurse recruitment business, an industry that’s gone through rapid growth in the last decade. Supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Patricia M. Pittman and colleagues conducted interviews with industry executives and focus groups with FENs. Read the rest of this entry ?


2010: The Year of the Nurse

December 31, 2009

By Shawn Kennedy, interim editor-in-chief

Tomorrow when we ring in the New Year we’ll also be ringing in the International Year of the Nurse. No kidding. The designation honors the centennial of the death of Florence Nightingale (she died on August 13, 1910). It launches at noon everywhere on January 1 with the Million Nurse Global Caring Field Project, a “global meditation” led by noted nursing theorist Jean Watson, and events will continue throughout the year.

Most of you were probably aware that the United Nations had developed eight Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) that nations should achieve to end poverty and improve the health, education, and quality of life of their peoples. Three of the eight goals are specifically focused on health, but the others all have an impact on health one way or another.

The target date for achieving the goals is 2015, but as countries have implemented programs to achieve these goals they’ve become acutely aware that, without nurses in sufficient supply, they will fall short. For example, how do you reduce the maternal death rate during childbirth if there are few skilled health professionals to provide prenatal care or assist at births? How do you treat TB and HIV when there are no health workers to dispense and monitor drug therapy? Read the rest of this entry ?


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