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Local Hospitals Fight Ebola Through Hands-On Training

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The CDC is investigating how exactly a Dallas nurse contracted Ebola from a patient she treated.

The center is blaming "a breach in protocol."

Officials say the nurse was wearing protective gear while caring for Thomas Duncan, who died from the disease.

But she may have gotten the virus while removing the gear.

Hospital workers face a number of challenges in treating people with infectious diseases and following the set procedures for putting on and taking off protective gear like hoods, masks, gloves and gowns.

Carrie Jo Cain is a registered nurse at Children's Hospital in St. Paul, but over the summer she spent two weeks in Sierra Leone showing hospital workers how to protect themselves as they treat Ebola patients.

"We went through three days of training everybody," she said. "Taking [the gear] off is the most critical."

She says the written instructions and illustrations provided by the CDC are helpful, but they are not enough.

"To be able to do hands-on is so important," she said. "A lot of them will tell you, 'Oh yes, I understand, I understand,' but then you try to do it, and they don't. So to be able to actually do it made the difference," she said.

Nurses in Oakland, Calif., agree.

They held a demonstration Sunday, calling for more training to deal with potential Ebola patients.

Emergency room doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center have a series of protective measures they take with quarantined patients. The measures are designed around the fact that Ebola is spread by direct contact with body fluids like blood, sweat and urine.

"Most of the risk occurs if you do have any blood or diarrhea or other stuff on you that has viral particles in it," Dr. John Hick  said. "If you, in the process of taking it off, drag that stuff across your skin, or maybe wipe your eye or something, that's how most of the health care providers are getting infected."

Doctors say that while in wearing protective gear, it's easy to spread the Ebola virus to a surface in the room.

Some local hospitals say it's their protocol to have a buddy system of sorts: A second person watches medical staff take off their gear to ensure it's done properly.

There has been some talk of designating just a handful of hospitals across the nation as the places where suspected Ebola victims should be treated.

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