ATLANTA – With the first round of more than 30 hospitals designated as Ebola treatment centers by public health officials, the vast majority of returning travelers from Ebola-stricken countries now live within 200 miles of such a facility in the United States.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that an increasing number of U.S. hospitals are now equipped to treat patients with Ebola, giving nationwide health system Ebola readiness efforts a boost. The CDC reported that state health officials had identified and designated the first 35 hospitals with Ebola treatment centers and that facilities would be added to the list weekly.

 “As long as Ebola is spreading in West Africa, we must prepare for the possibility of additional cases in the United States,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “We are implementing and constantly strengthening multiple levels of protection, including increasing the number of hospitals that have the training and capabilities to manage the complex care of an Ebola patient. These hospitals have worked hard to rigorously assess their capabilities and train their staff.”

Hospital administrators collaborated with local health authorities to determine which facilities would be designated to serve as treatment facilities for Ebola patients. Those hospitals are staffed, equipped and have been assessed to have current capabilities, training and resources to provide the complex treatment necessary to care for an Ebola patient while also minimizing risk to health care workers.

Each hospital with an Ebola treatment center was assessed on-site by a CDC Rapid Ebola Preparedness (REP) team. The CDC REP team includes experts in all aspects of caring for a patient with Ebola, including staff training, infection control, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, and details such as handling and management of the trash from the patient’s room. More than 50 hospitals in 15 states and Washington, DC, had undergone REP assessments as of the beginning of December, the CDC said.

The additional Ebola treatment centers supplement the three national bio containment facilities at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, which the CDC said would continue to play a major role in the overall national treatment strategy, especially for patients medically evacuated from overseas.

The priority areas for Ebola treatment centers are jurisdictions served by the five international airports screening returning travelers for Ebola, cities with high proportions of returning travelers from West Africa, and cities with large populations of individuals from West Africa. Federal health officials explained that, because of the active monitoring program of returning travelers from countries where Ebola is present, they have a good idea of where travelers from affected countries in West Africa are going and where Ebola treatment centers are most likely to be needed.

CDC also released guidance for states and hospitals to use as they identify and designate an Ebola treatment center. The guidance covers the range of capabilities hospitals need in order to provide comprehensive care for patients with Ebola.

In addition to designated hospitals to treat Ebola patients, CDC now is working with state and local public health officials to identify Ebola assessment hospitals. Assessment hospitals would have the capability to:

·         evaluate and care for someone who is having the first symptoms of Ebola for up to 96 hours;

·         initiate and coordinate testing for Ebola and for other diseases alternative diagnoses; and

·         either rule out Ebola or transfer the individual to an Ebola treatment center, as needed.

A patient with possible Ebola only would be cared for by an assessment hospital until a diagnosis is confirmed. The patient then would be transferred to an Ebola treatment center.

 CDC also released guidancefor states and hospitals to use as they identify Ebola assessment hospitals.