The two nurses that caught Ebola while caring for Thomas Duncan in Texas Presbytarian hospitals didn’t have a chance. Not only were protocols not followed, but the hospital couldn’t follow them even if they tried.
That’s because the Ebola virus is a Biosafety Level 4 microbe, requiring the highest level of biosafety possible. Ebola is among 12 other most dangerous viruses in the world.
To give you a point of reference, out of the 597 Airborne and Hemorrhaghic Fevers listed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), only 13 fall into the Level 4 category.
Along with Ebola, other Level 4 viruses are…
There are 597 Airborne and Hemorrhaghic Fevers listed by the Centers for Disease Control. Only 13 fall in the most dangerous Level 4 Biosafety category:
Biosafety Level 4 Airborne and Hemorrhaghic Fevers
“Most Dangerous in the World”
Congo-Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever
Biosafety Level 3 Airborne and Hemorrhaghic Fevers
“Less Dangerous than Level 4”
African Horse Sickness
African Swine Fever
Deer Tick Virus
Hanta Virus (different strains)
Nairobi Sheep Disease
Biosafety Level 2 Airborne and Hemorrhaghic Fevers
“Less Dangerous Than Level 3”
West Nile Virus
Researchers can study Ebola at a research facility the The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) operates in Detrick, Maryland. An on-site interview, describing the facility, the associate director says, “Hemorrhagic fevers like Marburg and Ebola, which are caused by viruses, are among the world’s most horrific afflictions.
For about seven days after infection, patients suffer from flu-like symptoms, but as the virus multiplies, blood starts to seep from the skin, mouth, eyes and ears. Internal organs hemorrhage into bloody, shapeless masses. Some of these fevers kill up to 90 percent of those who contract them, and they can be passed along by close contact with bodily fluids, maybe even by a sneeze,” says Jason Paragas, the facility’s Associate Director for Science.
“Scientists still don’t know much about how these rare but deadly diseases operate. If they take root in America–carried by unsuspecting travelers or by terrorists–the medical community would have no vaccines to halt their spread.
And there are only a handful of laboratories in the world equipped to experiment with these highly communicable pathogens. Lessons learned here could one day mean the difference between an outbreak and an epidemic.
Paragas is one of the 30 staffers who will work in the highly restricted lab…designed for the worst pathogens in the world.
The outer area is the medical research equivalent of a maximum-security prison–Biosafety Level 3. The inner sanctum is Supermax, or BSL-4. Researchers can study bubonic plague at level 3; Ebola and other killers that are transmissible and currently incurable must be quarantined at level 4.
The institute is so security-conscious that it asked Popular Mechanics not to identify the floor on which the BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs are located.
Clean water: Water and decontamination chemicals from sinks and showers collect in three 1500-gallon tanks in the facility. These tanks heat waste fluids to 250 F, killing anything that survives the disinfectant rinse.
To enter the restricted BSL-4 lab, Paragas first has to pass through two stainless-steel doors set up as an air lock. He punches in a code that deactivates the magnetic lock on the first door. The keypad also alerts the building automation system (BAS) that the air pressure is about to change.
The BAS adjusts the airflow, increasing the pressure in the BSL-3 area and decreasing it in the air lock. Once Paragas is ready to enter BSL-4, the BAS will ensure that high-pressure air in the air lock flows into the low-pressure, high-security lab, trapping airborne pathogens. The deeper the level of containment, the lower the pressure.
The air-lock door closes with the sound of an overworked drill, which is caused by the rapid inflation of a rubber bladder that seals the smooth edges of the door. Once the facility is operational, the air lock will also serve as a decontamination shower.
For 7 minutes, vertical banks of nozzles will spray water and virus-killing chemicals over exiting scientists’ hoods and suits before the door to BSL-3 will open.
Paragas sees the glow of a green light: The BAS is allowing him to push open the second door and enter BSL-4.
The IRF’s [Integrated Research Facility] architects designed everything inside BSL-4 to this level of security. Even fire-sprinkler heads are fitted with valves to prevent viruses from making an unlikely swim up the pipes. At the conclusion of experiments, lab technicians will rinse metal equipment with chemicals and then further purify the gear with an autoclave bake. ”
The Centers for Disease Control has on their website the following protocols for a BIosafety Level 4:
“BSL [Biosafety Level] – 4 builds upon the containment requirements of BSL-3 and is the highest level of biological safety. There are a small number of BSL-4 labs in the United States and around the world.
The microbes in a BSL-4 lab are dangerous and exotic, posing a high risk of aerosol-transmitted infections. Infections caused by these microbes are frequently fatal and without treatment or vaccines. Two examples of microbes worked with in a BSL-4 laboratory include Ebola and Marburg viruses.
- The laboratory is in a separate building or in an isolated and restricted zone of the building.
- The laboratory has dedicated supply and exhaust air, as well as vacuum lines and decontamination systems.
- Change clothing before entering.
- Shower upon exiting.
- Decontaminate all materials before exiting.
From the National Instituted of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, on Biosafety 4 protocols:
“A decontaminating shower once their work is completed, researchers in bio-containment suits must shower with strong disinfectant before leaving the lab and removing the suit.”
“The training that scientists undergo before first conducting research in the BSL-4 laboratory involves months of preparation”.
The fact that the nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital said that the suits they were given exposed their necks, soiled bedclothes were piled sky-high next to Duncan’s bed and that they were given no protocols to follow, tells you that they were winging it.
Even after the CDC assured the American people that they had everything under control.
And that’s why they sent the second nurse who got Ebola, Amber Joy Vinson, to Emory University hospital in Atlanta, as it’s one of four hospitals in the country specially equipped to handle Ebola cases.
Looks like the CDC learned their lesson – that ordinary hospitals cannot safely care for Ebola patients. If they do, their staff is at a definite risk of catching the virus.
Article authored by Carol Serpa. You can find the original story right here.