Unit for victims of lethal infectious diseases opens
OMAHA — The nation’s largest medical unit for victims of highly lethal infectious diseases such as smallpox, anthrax and the plague opened Monday in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Medical Center’s 10-bed containment wing has a separate ventilation system, alarms to indicate escaping air, a sterilizer for items leaving the wing and a shower for its volunteer staff to make sure contagious diseases are kept inside.
There are only two other high-level biocontainment facilities in the country — a two-bed suite run by the Army’s infectious diseases institute at Fort Detrick, Md., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s two-bed unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
“We hope we never have to use it, but if we do need to use it, it’s here,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding.
The wing was partly funded by federal Homeland Security money and can accept infected patients from other states.