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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Nebraska biocontainment unit preparing for Ebola

Federal public health officials recently contacted clinicians at the Nebraska Biocontainment Patient Care Unit in Omaha to determine if the facility could house Ebola patients if needed as the record outbreak in Western Africa continues.

No plans have been announced, but the the nation’s first and largest biocontainment unit stands at the ready to handle patients with Ebola and other emerging and deadly infections. The 10-bed biocontainment facility is located 10 minutes from the Omaha airport and near a military base, making it possible to receive patients from anywhere in the country, notes Angela Hewlett, MD, MS, associate medical director of the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, which houses the unit.

In addition to Ebola, the unit is qualified to handle other hemorrhagic fevers, plague, anthrax, and smallpox. The biocontainment unit has its own air handling system with negative airflow and HEPA filtration. It also has a pass-through autoclave and specimen decontamination tank, specialized patient transport systems, and personal protective equipment. When the biocontainment unit was developed in 2005, the Nebraska health department’s goal was to provide a safe health care environment for working with emerging infections without putting other patients at risk, says Philip W. Smith, MD, professor in the division of infectious diseases at Nebraska Medical Center.

“The unit has 20 air exchanges per hour and can deal with airborne or contact diseases,” Smith says. “We are experts in isolation."

For more on this story see the September 2014 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention