Nebraska Public Health Laboratory Director Dr. Pete Iwen faced a difficult challenge when the University of Nebraska Medical Center began treating its first Ebola patient.
“Having people with Ebola virus in the United States hasn’t happened before,” Iwen tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Iwen had to decide how to run the tests requested while keeping his people safe.
When the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s bio-containment unit received its first Ebola patient, the work began in earnest. In a matter of days, critical care physicians and infectious disease physicians developed a list of tests essential to that care. Lab officials got to work to determine how to safely perform the tests.
“One of the lessons learned for me is don’t under-estimate the anxiety level of people you work with,” Iwen says.
Communication was the key, says Iwen. Laboratory officials decided to treat samples taken from Ebola patients with the “highest level of containment” even when assured by federal health officials a lower standard would be acceptable.
And even as the lab stuck to a stringent protocol, it maintained flexibility, according to Iwen, changing to conform with their experience in testing the highly-infectious samples.
One humorous encounter grew from an otherwise extremely serious exercise. Iwen says the phone went silent when he spoke with couriers about shipping specimens commercially, followed by a question, “You want to do what?”
Iwen says the lab had to train those transporting the specimens, finally coming to an agreement, though the transportation came at a steep price.
Nebraska Public Health Laboratory officials shared their experience in an article published by the American Journal of Clinical Pathology.
Iwen was the lead author of the paper. UNMC faculty members who contributed to the paper are: Steven Hinrichs, M.D., senior author; and contributing authors, Philip Smith, M.D., Angela Hewlett, M.D., Christopher Kratochvil, M.D., Steven Lisco, M.D., James Sullivan, M.D., Shawn Gibbs, Ph.D., John Lowe, Ph.D., Paul Fey, Ph.D., Vicki Herrera, Anthony Sambol, and James Wisecarver, M.D.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]