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Big Month for the BCU

U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger stops to chat with
BCU team members Lisa Maragakis, Noreen Hynes and
Chris Sulmonte in February about the need for federal
funding to prepare against highly infectious diseases,
including support for U.S. treatment centers such as the
Johns Hopkins biocontainment unit.

The Johns Hopkins biocontainment unit (BCU) team celebrated a number of accomplishments during a one-month period between February and March.

Research Published

The BCU team recently authored or co-authored seven manuscripts in one issue of Health Security, a peer-reviewed journal of The Johns Hopkins University. “Along with serving as a state-of-the-art facility to care for patients and educate health care providers, the mission of the BCU is to advance the science of containment practices,” says Brian Garibaldi, director of the unit. The team’s published topics included caring for children, pregnant mothers and babies in the BCU, applying an incident command system, the impact of a BCU beyond preparing for highly infectious diseases and more.

“This huge showing highlights our team’s expertise and commitment to the science behind preparing for and caring for patients with high consequence pathogens,” says Lauren Sauer, director of research for the BCU and CEPAR’s director of operations.

For the complete list of published manuscripts, please visit Health Security.

Congressional Trips

Also in February, several BCU team members joined counterparts at other academic medical institutions on Capitol Hill to gain support for continued funding of regional Ebola and special pathogen treatment centers, such as the Johns Hopkins biocontainment unit. During the trip, Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., BCU executive director, Noreen Hynes, M.D., M.P.H., BCU associate medical director, and Chris Sulmonte, the BCU’s project administrator, met with key federal lawmakers and staff members from Maryland and surrounding states.

Later, in March, Congressman David Trone from Maryland toured the BCU as part of a visit to Johns Hopkins.

“As the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues, it remains a constant reminder of the need to prepare for and protect against transmission of these highly infectious diseases,” says Maragakis, who is also CEPAR’s senior adviser and subject matter expert for infectious disease, epidemiology and public health. “Our conversations with Congressional members and their staff went well. Most lawmakers and their staff were very supportive of the work that we are doing. I am cautiously optimistic that they will support ongoing investment in our preparedness efforts.”

Current federal funding to protect against such public health threats expires in 2020.

NETEC Visit and Exercise

On Feb. 13 and 14, the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit (BCU) hosted the National Ebola Training and Education Center for its annual site visit. During the visit, teams from the BCU, emergency department (ED), Lifeline, microbiology lab and other areas participated in an exercise to test the ability to care for a patient with a high-consequence pathogen in the ED, as well as transport labwork to the microbiology lab and Maryland Department of Health lab.

Overall, BCU team members say the NETEC site visit and exercise were a success. The drill tested areas that have not been previously tested and uncovered a number of opportunities to improve processes and protocols. The drill also highlighted the important collaboration between the BCU and the emergency department, the front door of the hospital for many possible infectious disease patients. 

“This is one of the few times we have performed a lab and ED-specific drill, and it was very beneficial to practice this scenario, particularly with such a diverse and multidisciplinary group,” says Jennifer Andonian, BCU program manager and a senior infection control epidemiologist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The BCU holds trainings/exercises each quarter.

Related articles:

Ebola outbreak reminds us that we need pandemic preparedness

The Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit Takes Preparing for Ebola to a New Level

Operation Limelight – Raising Awareness of the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit