Dear NAPNAP Members,
We were saddened by the news of the first U.S. Ebola-related death in Dallas and the subsequent report of infection in two nurses who cared for this patient. Extensive media coverage has significantly heightened public awareness and anxiety about the Ebola virus. I imagine that many of you have had patients or their families raise questions about the Ebola virus, particularly for those of you practicing in Texas. On behalf of NAPNAP leadership, I want to share some perspectives regarding this evolving public health concern.
It is important to publicly state that NAPNAP stands in strong support of all nurses and advanced practice nurses around the world who are providing expert, compassionate care at the frontline of the Ebola outbreak. We hope for a rapid recovery for the two Texas nurses as well as all care providers globally who have been infected with the virus while in the line of duty. Some initial media accounts, which seemed to point “blame” toward the nurses infected with the virus, were disturbing, misguided and unhelpful to fostering a thoughtful system-wide dialogue about how our nation can effectively prepare for and manage communicable disease outbreaks. NAPNAP strongly supports the concept of “just culture” in which frontline staff and system leadership share responsibility and accountability for safety and system errors or gaps as well as errant individual human factors are identified, thoughtfully discussed and remediated. We believe that recent statements from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nursing, medicine and public health officials have emphasized just culture concepts and the need for comprehensive system preparedness and leadership to rapidly learn from and respond to early gaps or missteps in dealing with Ebola in the U.S.
On October 16, the American Nurses Association (ANA), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) issued a joint statement regarding our nation’s response to Ebola. On October 17, another joint statement went out from the Emergency Nurses Association, American Association of Critical Care Nurses and the American Organization of Nurse Executives, also in support of nurses who remain on the frontline of patient care. These statements along with others clearly identify the need for a united, interprofessional approach to effectively addressing the Ebola outbreak. In the near future we anticipate an additional statement from the larger Nursing Community representing 61 professional nursing organizations including NAPNAP. Important information for healthcare providers about Ebola virus and safe care of Ebola-infected patients can be found on numerous websites including the CDC, HRSA and World Health Organization (WHO).
Finally, it is important for us to place this current Ebola outbreak within a realistic, U.S. and global context. In the U.S., Ebola has claimed one life thus far, compared to seven children who have died from Enterovirus d68. According to the most recent WHO report (October 17, 2014), there have been 4,555 deaths worldwide attributed to Ebola virus in 2014. In contrast, the WHO estimates that annual epidemics of influenza cause an estimated 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness and approximately 250,000 to 500,000 influenza-related deaths per year (WHO, 2014). Although we do not have an effective, approved vaccine yet for Enterovirus d68 or Ebola, we do have an effective vaccine to prevent influenza. It’s important that we continue to present a strong, united front in support of universal influenza immunization for all who are eligible to receive this vaccine. The recent wave of serious infectious diseases also underscores the critical role we play in providing families with realistic information about disease risks and helping families learn principles of communicable disease prevention including the importance of hand hygiene.
Mary Chesney, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
October 22, 2014