Laboratories must operate and remain in a state of perpetual readiness, meaning that laboratories must constantly be prepared for any emerging, evolving, or re-emerging infectious disease pathogens that may be encountered today, tomorrow, or in the future. Laboratory workers are protected from exposure to infectious agents when they adhere consistently to established safety protocols. This is true, even when the infectious agent is the Ebola virus. However, because the Ebola virus is extremely infectious, workers must have a complete understanding of safe laboratory practices in order to prevent personal exposure and to prevent the transfer of the organism outside the laboratory.
Specimens from patients suspected of having EVD may enter the laboratory at any time, without any advance notice or knowledge. The best defense is the consistent use of safe laboratory practices, which include:
- Strict adherence to Standard Precautions
- Diligent practice of proper hand hygiene procedures
- Rigid compliance with all requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard, including the use of:
- Engineering controls
- Work practice controls
- All necessary personal protective equipment (PPE)
Based on the need to provide essential laboratory testing of suspect EVD specimens, each laboratory will have to determine if it is necessary to implement additional protocols to provide enhanced precautions to further assure the safety of laboratory personnel.