By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Health Medical Center (DHMC) is now better equipped to care for patients with Ebola and other highly infectious diseases.

In response to the deadly Ebola epidemic in 2014, the hospital has improved its biocontainment unit and is ready to serve patients in a six-state region.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The nurses now have sophisticated suits, helmets, and face shields to protect them from infection. They are members of what’s called the HITeam (High Risk Infection Team) and are prepared to treat patients with Ebola, measles, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or any other highly-infectious disease.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“Everything can be done within this room,” said Amber Miller, Manager of Infection at DHMC.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ebola epidemic killed 11,325 people. That prompted action in the U.S. Using a $2.9 million federal grant, DHMC spent six months improving the ventilation system, adding doors to better isolate the area, buying the new safety suits as well as sophisticated mannequins for training. The biocontainment unit now has its own lab and waste management system.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“So everything within this small unit will all be contained, rendered non-infectious, before it leaves this small area,” said Miller.

“There’s nothing else like it in this region,” said Dr. Connie Price, Chief Medical Officer at DHMC.

Dr. Connie Price is interviewed by CBS4's Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

Dr. Connie Price is interviewed by CBS4’s Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

Price explained the biocontainment unit is one of 10 Regional Ebola and Special Pathogens Treatment Centers (RESPTC) in the country and will serve Colorado, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

  1. David Fedson says:

    A “bottom up” treatment for Ebola that could be used in West Africa

    More than 11,000 people died as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Aside from conventional supportive care, no specific treatment was available. In most treatment units, more than 50% of the patients died. We now know these patients could have been treated.
    Patients who die of Ebola have elevated plasma levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The same thing is seen in patients with sepsis, and in sepsis patients these findings are associated with endothelial dysfunction and the loss of endothelial barrier integrity [1-3]. Careful studies of foreign healthcare workers who were infected with Ebola virus and evacuated from West Africa for medical care showed they had developed massive fluid losses. These losses were due to a dramatic increase in vascular permeability, a direct effect of the loss of endothelial barrier integrity.
    Cardiovascular scientists have known for many years that several common drugs, among them statins and angiotensin receptor blockers, have the ability to stabilize or restore endothelial barrier integrity. These drugs are safe when given to patients with acute critical illness, and clinical studies suggest they might improve survival in patients with sepsis, pneumonia and influenza [1, 3]. For these reasons, in November 2014, local physicians in Sierra Leone treated consecutively approximately 100 Ebola patients with a combination of atorvastatin (40 mg orally /day) and irbesartan (150 mg orally/day) [4-7]. Only three inadequately treated patients are known to have died. There was no financial or logistical support to conduct a proper clinical trial; treatment was supported by a private donation of $25,000. Unfortunately, several months earlier this idea for treating Ebola patients had been rejected by Ebola scientists [2] and WHO, and it received no support from national health agencies or major foundations. Sadly, physicians and health officials in Sierra Leone refused to release information on their treatment experience. Nonetheless, letters and memoranda they exchanged provide good evidence that treatment brought about “remarkable improvement” in Ebola patients.
    Unlike experimental treatments (antiviral drugs, convalescent plasma) that have been tested in Ebola patients with little success [8], atorvastatin and irbesartan target the host response to the infection, not the virus itself [3-7]. By stabilizing endothelial function and restoring normal fluid balance, combination treatment allows patients to live long enough to develop immune responses of their own and get rid of the virus.
    All physicians who treat patients with cardiovascular diseases are familiar with atorvastatin and irbesartan, and most of them have used these drugs to treat their patients. They are widely available as inexpensive generics in West Africa. A 10-day course of treatment for an individual Ebola patient would cost only a few dollars.
    Details on the Ebola patients who were treated need to be released, and these findings need to be externally reviewed and validated. Ebola scientists and WHO have shown no interest in doing this, perhaps because treating the host response is a new idea [9]. If sporadic cases of Ebola continue to occur, combination treatment could be tried in these patients, and if numbers increase, a proper clinical trial could be undertaken. In the meantime, physicians should consider the possibility that this combination might be used to treat patients with any form of acute infectious disease, including pandemic influenza [10], in which failure to overcome endothelial dysfunction often leads to multi-organ failure and death.


    1. Fedson DS, Opal SM. Can statins help treat Ebola? The New York Times, August 15, 2014.
    2. Enserink M. Debate erupts on ‘repurposed’ drugs for Ebola. Science 2014, 345: 718-9.
    3. Fedson DS. A practical treatment for patients with Ebola virus disease. J Infect Dis 2015; 211: 661-2. (Published online on August 25, 2014)
    4. Fedson DS, Jacobson JR, Rordam OM, Opal SM. Treating the host response to Ebola virus disease with generic statins and angiotensin receptor blockers. mBio 2015; 6: e00716-15.
    5. Fedson, DS, Rordam OM. Treating Ebola patients: a “bottom up” approach using generic statins and angiotensin receptor blockers. Int J Infect Dis 2015; 36: 80-4.
    6. Filewod NC, Lee WL. Is strengthening the endothelial barrier a therapeutic strategy for Ebola? Int J Infect Dis 2015; 36: 78-9.
    7. Fedson DS. Immunomodulatory adjunctive treatment options for Ebola virus disease patients: another view. Intensive Care Med 2015; 7: 1383.
    8. Cohen J, Enserink M. As Ebola epidemic draws to a close, a thin scientific harvest. Science 2016; 351: 12-3.
    9. Baddeley M. Herding, social influences and behavioural bias in scientific research. EMBO Rep 2015; 16: 902-5.
    10. Fedson DS. How will physicians confront the next influenza pandemic? Clin Infect Dis 2014; 58: 233-7.

Leave a Reply