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Monday, Mar 25, 2019

Ballad Health regional conference on highly infectious disease preparedness

When an outbreak of infectious disease occurs, it’s essential for healthcare providers to have a well-planned, coordinated approach to treating the disease and protecting the community. That’s why Ballad Health has organized a panel of experts to provide training and education to regional healthcare providers on the topic of serious communicable diseases that are either highly infectious or extremely rare and often never seen before

The conference, titled “Disease X: Are You Prepared?” will be held March 26 at Bristol Regional Medical Center. Attendees of the grant-funded conference will hear from nationally-recognized medical professionals about their experiences and learn how to be prepared for any disease that may impact our region.

Being prepared involves quickly and accurately identifying an infectious disease, then isolating and treating the patient or patients as appropriate.

“It’s better to plan for this now rather than in the midst of a global outbreak like the Ebola outbreak of 2014,” said Jamie Swift, Ballad Health’s director of infection prevention. “This conference will provide our healthcare community with the latest news of what is happening nationally, as well as internationally in the world of infectious diseases. It will also give us the opportunity to review our regional, state and national response plans.

Ballad Health’s Johnson City Medical Center is one of five hospitals in Tennessee that is designated as an assessment hospital in the Highly Infectious Disease Treatment Network. Team members – including emergency department staff and dedicated ICU nurses – make up the Strike Team, which participates in annual trainings and exercises to ensure Ballad Health remains prepared to respond. Each year, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health, an unannounced exercise is conducted to truly assess staff readiness. 

“Disease X” is a top global concern identified by the World Health Organization in 2018 and refers to an unknown pathogen that may cause disease and potentially an epidemic in the future. 

The newest threats faced in healthcare include an antibiotic-resistant bacteria called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae CRE, along with Candida. auris, an incipient fungal infection that is difficult to identify and treat. Patient screenings for C. auris have already  been implemented at Ballad Health facilities.

The speakers of “Disease X: Are You Prepared?” include:

  • Australia native Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner teaches in the department of public health sciences at Penn State and is director of strategic partnerships in disaster medicine in the emergency department of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Dr. Macgregor-Skinner – the keynote speaker – has served as a military officer in the Australian Army and holds degrees in veterinary medicine, epidemiology and international health.
  • Dr. Colleen Kraft is from Atlanta where she teaches at the Emory University School of Medicine in the pathology and infectious disease fields. In 2014, it was her medical team that treated Kent Brantly, a doctor with Samaritan’s Purse who returned from Africa infected with Ebola. She is not only a physician within the Emory Healthcare system, but she also serves as the associate medical director of the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit at Emory University Hospital.
  • Dr. Kelly Moore is an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and she currently chairs the WHO Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (IPAC). She also serves as the director of Siloam Health, a faith-based, non-profit clinic in Nashville, Tennessee, that provides medical care to the uninsured, underserved and culturally marginalized population.
  • Dr. Paras Patel earned his medical degree in his native India, and then completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in infectious diseases at East Tennessee State University. Not only is he an infectious diseases staff physician at Johnson City Medical Center, Holston Valley Medical Center, Sycamore Shoals Hospital and Franklin Woods Community Hospital, he is the program director of the infectious diseases fellowship and associate professor of medicine at ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine.

The conference is being offered in conjunction with the Northeast Tennessee Healthcare Preparedness Coalition.

Medical providers, including physicians, nurses, labs, phlebotomy and EMS within Ballad Health and outside agencies, have been invited to attend.

“While infectious disease outbreaks are an ever-present risk, I urge community members to be more concerned with common – but still serious — threats like the flu, rather than Ebola,” said Swift. “In the event that an outbreak occurs, however, our regional healthcare providers are trained and ready to respond.”

Disease X Symposium Registration