Impact of infectious disease’s re-emergence evaluated

According to Associate Professor and Chair of Biology Derek Wood, the problem with Ebola is that very little is known about what it does.

“We know very little about the function of its proteins. We know this virus is evolving but it’s unclear how it’s evolving,” Wood said.

On Nov. 20, the nursing and pre-professional health departments at SPU put on an event titled, “Interprofessional Grand Rounds.”

Guest speaker Dr. Steven Mitchell, the interim director of emergency medicine at Harborview Medical Center, spoke on the current widespread outbreak of the Ebola virus. The lecture titled, “Regional Ebola Care: A 24 hour Journey Into A Thousand Questions” was given in Otto Miller Hall 127 to over 70 students, faculty and alumni.

In addition to this lecture, Wood gave a brief preface about the evolution of Ebola, the initial outbreak and the little known scientific character of the virus.

“The hope is to get conversation and relation going between people going into the health care profession,” Wood said. “A lot of them won’t have the opportunity to connect with Health Care Professionals in the clinical setting until they are graduated.”

According to Wood, the lecture was the kick-start of a growing relationship between the health science departments.There will be lectures about scientific discoveries and controversies on a quarterly basis.

To accommodate the growing number of people in attendance, the lectures will be held in Demaray 150.

The hour-long lecture included the direct effects of Ebola in the United States.

Mitchell shared his first-hand experience with Ebola at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, the first hospital in the U.S. to treat patients with the virus.

“I have been intimately involved in what’s happening at Harborview and this is right in front of us everyday,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, there are three primary lessons citizens have learned in the U.S. health care system’s approach to responding to the situation.

“The first is that you can’t underestimate the fear factor. The second is that risks abound with highly infectious diseases… and to deal with this, it requires a new paradigm of thinking, a whole fundamental shift in our approach as an organization,” Mitchell said.

On Oct. 6, Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center announced its voluntary readiness to consider receiving U.S. patients evacuated from Western Africa for Ebola treatment.

“One of the lessons we’ve learned is what the impact of a single patient has on the health system that we had no idea about before,” Mitchell said. “In the process, we figured out that we really weren’t that prepared.”

Mitchell said Harborview has since purchased proper safety gear for medical professionals to wear while treating patients with Ebola.

The hospital also began discussing the issues surrounding the designation of two emergency rooms strictly for patients with Ebola.

“We are finally feeling like we’re getting on top of this whole thing, but we’re not even there yet,” Mitchell said.

According to the health science department at SPU, Ebola is an issue that spreads across all scopes of learning—not just the scientific world.

“Viruses have the potential to make huge impacts in our world,” Wood said. “We have to be ready for that impact.”

This article was published in print on Dec. 3. Due to technical difficulties, it was published online on Dec. 5.

This article was posted in the section News.

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