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CDC Announces New Guidelines For Health Care Workers Treating Ebola Patients

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines on Monday for health care workers caring for patients with Ebola.

The new guidelines "provide an increased margin of safety," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a conference call with reporters.

Frieden added that they represented a "consensus" by the health care workers who have treated people with Ebola in the United States, including those workers at hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska that have treated Ebola without further transmission.

The CDC is, of course, reacting to what happened at Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where two nurses caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, contracted the virus.

"The [old] guidelines didn't work for that hospital," Frieden said.

Because of the lessons learned, the CDC said it was implementing three new recommendations:

-- First, they will make sure that health care workers dealing with Ebola patients are "repeatedly trained," especially when it comes to learning how to put on and take off their personal protective equipment.

-- Second, the equipment used should leave no skin exposed.

-- Third, these regulations should be monitored by a "trained observer" or site manager, who watches each employee take on and off their personal protective equipment.

"All patients treated at Emory University Hospital, Nebraska Medical Center and the NIH Clinical Center have followed the three principles," the CDC said in a press release. "None of the workers at these facilities have contracted the illness."

Frieden was asked how these guidelines differed from the ones set out by Doctors Without Borders, which has been treating patients with Ebola in West Africa.

Frieden said for the most part, they are identical, except in areas that are difficult to translate.

For example, he said, Doctors Without Borders asks health care workers to be sprayed down with a bleach solution over a gravel pit. That is hard to do in an American hospital, said Frieden, so the CDC calls for American workers to wipe down their personal protective equipment with a virucidal wipe before taking it off.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.