Managing a Measles Outbreak – Real-Time Location Systems Can Help

Measles Outbreak

by  Mary Jagim, MSN, RN, CEN, FAEN | CNO at Infinite Leap

This week, Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City, declared a public health emergency following a measles outbreak in Brooklyn. The measure follows a spike in measles infections in New York City, where there have been 285 confirmed cases since the outbreak began in the fall; 21 of those cases led to hospitalizations, including five admissions to the intensive care unit.

As an emergency nurse, an outbreak like this motivates me to think about how we can contain the spread of contagious diseases such as measles.

According to an article in The New York Times entitled “New York Declares Measles Emergency, Requiring Vaccinations in Parts of Brooklyn,” the city has already tried education and outreach, distributing thousands of fliers to encourage parents to vaccinate their children. They also implemented harsher measures, like a school ban on unvaccinated students. The mayor said the city will issue citations and possibly fines for those who will not comply with a mandate to vaccinate against measles.

An outbreak like this also creates the risk of potential exposure to your hospital staff and the patients you care for.

We often admit new patients to a hospital without knowing if they are carrying a spreadable disease; we only know if a patient is a carrier after a medical evaluation and test results. In this situation, we put at risk many of our patients and staff who were exposed to the carrier in the waiting room, exam room, or lab.

With the assistance of real-time location technologies such as RTLS, and an automatically generated contact tracking report which leverages data collected by an RTLS system, healthcare organizations can take the necessary steps to minimize the spread of the infection, including quarantining, immunizing, and/or inoculating staff and patients and sterilizing potentially contaminated equipment.

For example, during a measles outbreak in Texas, a hospital leveraged RTLS data to implement an effective communications strategy. Since their patients and staff were all tagged, the facility was able to run a contact tracking report and send out targeted messages to everyone who came into contact with the infected patient.

If your organization has already invested in RTLS for use cases such as asset management or nurse call integration, the infection prevention and containment use case can be easily added to your existing RTLS system, enhancing the safety of your patients and staff. And if you don’t have an RTLS system in place, this might be the tipping point to convince your hospital administration of the need to invest in RTLS.