Biocontainment Unit

About the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit

The United States Centers for Disease Control commissioned the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit (NBU) in 2005. The NBU is a collaborative project involving Nebraska Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. It was designed to provide the first line of treatment for people affected by bio terrorism or extremely infectious naturally occurring diseases. It is one of only a few biocontainment units in the United States and is the largest, with up to a 10-bed capacity depending upon the specific infection. 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 Unit was one of three units selected to care for United States citizens with Ebola virus disease medically evacuated from Africa. The unit is a secured area with highly trained staff who safely provide all levels of care to patients infected with deadly infectious diseases.

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.

Headed by Medical Director Angela Hewlett, MD, an infectious diseases specialist, the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit personnel consists of an extraordinary staff of select physicians, registered nurses, respiratory therapists and patient care technicians specially trained in high level isolation and bio-preparedness. Most work full-time in other areas of Nebraska Medicine but remain on-call to report promptly for duty when the unit is activated. Highly contagious and deadly infectious conditions the unit can handle include: SARS, MERS, smallpox, plague, Ebola virus and other viral hemorrhagic fevers, monkeypox, and multidrug resistant tuberculosis.

Service Options

Download the Nebraska Biocontainment Patient Care Unit brochure

Download the Nebraska Medicine Biocontainment Brochure

Unique Features

Some of the units unique features include High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air filtration system to ensure that micro-organisms do not spread beyond the patient rooms. There is a secured access main entrance featuring double doors that are pressure controlled. Staff have a separate secured access entrance and exit which includes a decontamination shower. Dual "pass-through" autoclaves decontaminate waste, linens, and materials leaving the unit. Patient isolation rooms maintain negative air flow with 15 or more air exchanges per hour to assure that hazardous infections are contained. In addition, use of a secure telehealth communication system minimizes the number of staff needing to enter isolation rooms. Use of HEPA-filtered individual isolation units, sometimes called biopods or isopods are available for safe transport and transfer of an infected patient to the unit. These 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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Nebraska Biocontainment Unit and Media contacts:

Nebraska Biocontainment Unit

  • (402) 559-4000

Taylor Wilson

Jenny Nowatzke

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