The United States Centers for Disease Control commissioned the Nebraska Biocontainment Patient Care Unit in 2005. It is a joint project involving The Nebraska Medical Center, Nebraska Health and Human Services, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It was designed to provide the first line of treatment for people affected by bio terrorism or extremely infectious naturally occurring diseases. It's the largest facility of its kind in the U.S. The unit is equipped to safely care for anyone exposed to a highly contagious and dangerous disease. Early isolation of an infected patient is essential - buying time for public health officials and providing the chance to either stop an outbreak - or help to contain one. The unit’s location, on the same campus as Nebraska’s Bio-Safety Level-3 laboratory, allows for timely diagnosis and immediate treatment of patients.
The Nebraska Biocontainment Patient Care Unit has ten beds and can receive patients from anywhere in the country, and is equipped with many safety features. Examples include special air handling systems to ensure that micro-organisms do not spread beyond the patient rooms, with high level filtration and ultraviolet light for additional protection. A dunk tank for laboratory specimens and a pass-through autoclave help assure that hazardous infections are contained. Hepa-filtered individual isolation units, sometimes called biopods are available for safe transport and transfer of an infected patient to the unit.
The staff all receives specialized training and participates in numerous drills throughout the year. The entire unit is specially isolated from the rest of the hospital, using its own ventilation system and security access.
While the unit has never been activated, the staff routinely drills to make sure they are prepared in case it ever is needed.
Headed by Medical Director Philip Smith, MD, an infectious diseases specialist, the Biocontainment Unit is staffed with registered nurses, respiratory therapists and patient care technicians who are on-call 24 hours a day. Highly contagious and deadly infectious conditions the unit can handle include: SARS, smallpox, tularemia, plague, Ebola virus and other viral hemorrhagic fevers, monkeypox, vancomycin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) and multidrug resistant tuberculosis.
The unit is equipped with special air-handling systems to ensure that germs do not spread beyond the patient rooms. Ultraviolet light, a dunk tank for lab specimens and a sterilizer for laundry are just some of the safety measures being taken to keep germs inside the unit and people safe on the outside.
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