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How to Prevent Measles Outbreaks in Healthcare Facilities

This year has had the highest reported number of measles cases in the United States since 1992. Nearly 1,000 cases of measles across 26 states has caused great concern among healthcare professionals, and several states have declared a state of emergency in response to measles outbreaks. 

Measles is a viral infection causing fever and rashes, usually in children. Measles had been declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, but these startling high rates of infection may revert the status of the disease. Measles is highly contagious, and can be extremely deadly, especially for very young children. 

In order to protect against measles outbreaks, healthcare professionals need to take the right steps towards ensuring that their facility isn’t vulnerable to the spread of the measles virus and other infectious diseases. By implementing these best practices, you can limit the spread of disease in your healthcare facility.

Know Which People are Most Vulnerable

Measles can be prevented through vaccine — most commonly the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine administered in two doses during a person’s childhood. However, there are portions of the population who are still particularly vulnerable to measles, including:

  • Infants and children under 5
  • Some adults under 20
  • Pregnant women
  • People with compromised immune systems, such as from HIV, leukemia, or an autoimmune disease.
  • People who are unvaccinated

Have Isolation Areas Ready

Measles is an incredibly contagious disease, with about 9 out of 10 people who are exposed to the virus contracting the disease. It is an airborne disease that travels when an infected person coughs, breathes, or sneezes, and it stays active in the air for hours. 

Therefore, it’s incredibly important to have a designated isolation area or ward where you can quarantine and observe patients who you may believe have the measles virus. In fact, a recent study found that having isolation rooms is one of the most effective ways of preventing a measles outbreak, simply because it limits the amount of contact a sick patient has with other vulnerable people. 

There are a few ways to create isolation rooms, such as with temporary wall barriers, or with negative pressure. The HEPACART® AnteRoom with an attached negative air machine can turn any room into an immediate isolation room, which can be a big help while planning guidelines for circumventing measles outbreaks. 

Create Guidelines & Train Staff

Speaking of guidelines for measles outbreaks, it’s important to have some put in place. According to the same study referenced above, having set guidelines is another huge component of preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as measles. 

You need to ensure that your guidelines are being followed by your staff. Having specific and frequent training on infection control guidelines and measles outbreak scenarios are key to ensuring that everyone in your healthcare facility is on board with the infection control plan. All members of staff, from senior administrators to maintenance workers, need to be informed and trained on infection control guidelines. 

Ensure You Have the Right Equipment

Another essential element of infection control for measles outbreaks and other diseases includes having the right equipment to protect and disinfect your healthcare facility, which can prevent outbreaks from ever occurring. 

Personal Protection Equipment

While it’s important to keep patients safe from contracting the measles virus, it’s equally important to ensure that your staff is protected as well by having access to personal protection equipment such as:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Respirators
  • Shoe covers
  • Face shields and masks

By taking advantage of protective equipment, you can prevent your employees from both getting sick and inadvertently spreading infection in the healthcare facility. 

Isolation Equipment

As mentioned earlier, being able to create isolation rooms or wards on short notice is a major part of preventing a measles outbreak and the spread of other infectious diseases. Having the right equipment, such as a HEPACART® AnteRoom, to filter and prevent air particles from getting into other healthcare facility spaces is essential. 

Disinfection & Filtration Equipment

Waiting rooms, conference rooms, doctor’s offices and pratictioner’s offices, and reception areas are all examples of places where measles outbreaks can occur, as these areas are generally more infectious than others due to the large amount of sick patients that can pass through them on a daily basis.

Tools like the Germbuster 5000 with attached HEPA-filter and Far-UV Sterilray™ can both filter the air and physically destroy the bodies of pathogens like the measles virus. Having one in a waiting room can greatly reduce — if not eliminate — the risk of a measles outbreak in your healthcare facility. 

The HEPA-filter is what the CDC recommends as the most effective air filter for infectious diseases such as measles, and attaching one to other infection prevention tools like a negative air machine can create better odds of avoiding a measles outbreak. 

Measles is no longer a disease of the past, especially as the reported cases within the United States continues to rise. However, by doing your due diligence and taking preventative measures towards protecting your healthcare facility from a measles outbreak, you can rest easier.

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