The world remains vulnerable to a new plague. Are we prepared? The searing documentary After Ebola: Nebraska and the Next Pandemic offers possible clues as it examines the U.S. response to the Ebola virus just six short years ago.
In 2014, the dreaded Ebola virus reared its ugly head, and claimed over 11,000 lives across the West African landscape. That same year, as one of only three medical institutions in the United States equipped with the proper biocontainment facilities, the University of Nebraska Medical Center began caring for three patients afflicted with the virus. The documentary focuses on the efforts of the hospital's elite medical team during that challenging time.
The arrival of the first patient - an American doctor who was doing missionary work in Liberia - infused the team with equal parts resolve and nervous anticipation. Their many years of training were finally being put to the test, and they knew each step of the care process allowed no room for error.
The film features interviews with the doctors and nurses who cared for the patient. These medical professionals were obviously on the frontline of the care process, but they were also most at risk of catching and further spreading the disease. We share in the pulse-pounding risks they faced every step along the way - from the challenges of transportation to the hospital to the delicacy of interacting and physically handling the patient. Small adjustments became a necessity throughout, and the team was forced to react on the fly.
Their experiences have informed future protocols for treating such patients. The treatment of each patient's symptoms was the easiest and most achievable of their concerns. Safety measures - from the proper insulation of air flow in the treatment room to the handling of blood samples from the room to the lab – became of paramount importance.
Admittedly, the University of Nebraska Medical Center is a top-tier facility with the necessary resources and preparedness measures in place long before the first patient arrived. Much work must be done to bring other hospitals in the U.S. and around the world up to these standards.
By portraying the inner workings of this extraordinary medical team, After Ebola: Nebraska and the Next Pandemic offers a sterling example for others to follow.