New York rescuers and doctors held a joint exercise to combat the Marburg virus

New York rescuers and doctors held a joint exercise to combat the Marburg virus

NYC Health + Hospitals conducted a multi-agency exercise to combat the Marburg virus, a disease similar to Ebola. How it all went, according to a press release from NYC Health + Hospitals.

On August 2, NYC Health + Hospitals conducted an exercise testing the healthcare system’s ability to identify and isolate “patients” with simulated Marburg virus symptoms and transport them safely to NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.

Medical and emergency workers must wear protective suits and follow strict protocols to ensure safe handling of patients and prevent exposure to the pathogen.

The Marburg virus, an 80% fatality cousin of Ebola, requires strict health and safety protocols to be followed when transporting suspected patients. There have been several Marburg outbreaks in Africa in the past year, including most recently this year in Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea. Both flashes subsided. The risk of Marburg virus entering New York is very low.

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These exercises were conducted “without notice,” meaning health care workers seeing two patients did not know it was an exercise until they isolated the patient and notified the New York City Department of Health about the patient with suspected Marburg infection. The exercise was coordinated by the public health system, the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services, the New York City Department of Health, the New York City Office of Emergency Management, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

“Ready to respond is a critical public health function as we prepare for health emergencies and is a key strategic priority to further strengthen the Department of Health in the post-COVID-19 era of emergencies,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Wasan. “Exercises like these help our healthcare workers practice in extreme conditions so they can focus on protecting their patients and communities when needed. I am grateful to our healthcare providers, our partners in government, and those on the ground for helping keep our city healthy, no matter what comes our way.”

The exercises were conducted under two different scenarios. The first included a “patient” who arrived at the NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx emergency room with Marburg virus symptoms. Hospital staff had to acknowledge that the patient’s symptoms, combined with travel history and other epidemiological risk factors, suggested a potentially lethal virus. They then had to isolate the patient and notify the Department of Health. Suddenly, the patient “dies” in the ambulance, followed by a discussion with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on the protocol for managing a deceased patient with a highly lethal disease.

In the second scenario, the patient arrives at a scheduled appointment at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health with the same scenario and symptoms as the first patient, and the team must identify and isolate the patient. Both options allowed FDNY EMS to practice wearing full-body PPE while caring for a patient and performing the decontamination protocol.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue’s Special Pathogens Program is a founding partner of the National Emerging Pathogens Training and Education Center (NETEC) and one of 13 Regional New Special Pathogens Treatment Centers (RESPTCs) nationwide tasked with developing a regional response to specific pathogens.

The Bellevue Special Pathogens Program serves Region 2, which consists of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, leading the initial response to recent outbreaks such as COVID-19 and Mpox, increasing infectious disease preparedness, and providing training and education. The Special Pathogens Program maintains ongoing preparedness for the safe management of confirmed Ebola and other severe infectious diseases.

The event was attended by regional, national and international observers from organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US Department of Health and Human Services, the New York Hospital Association, the New York State Department of Health, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office for weapons of mass destruction, the Biodefense Commission and the White House.

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