News: After Ebola: Nebraska and the Next Pandemic

Air Date: 04/19/2017

Plague. Avian flu. Cholera.

The most contagious and deadly diseases in the world could be on our doorstep overnight.

Would we recognize the symptoms? Could we treat the disease or keep it from spreading?

An elite, specially trained group at the University of Nebraska Medical Center mobilized to face this reality late in the summer of 2014 when three patients infected with the Ebola virus were transferred to the hospital for treatment. The unit spent 10 years preparing for patients with dangerous, highly contagious diseases, but this was no dress rehearsal. It was a worst-case scenario – with possible deadly consequences.

"When the Ebola patients were brought to Nebraska there was international media coverage. We wanted to tell the story of what happened behind-the-scenes and what lessons were learned from the experience," said Nebraska Public Media senior producer Bill Kelly. After Ebola: Nebraska and the Next Pandemic examines preparedness and planning for a potential pandemic requiring quarantine and containment.

The documentary combines the personal stories of those in Omaha who dealt first-hand with one of the world’s deadliest diseases, with reporting about plausible scenarios that detail how a highly infectious disease could emerge from the Great Plains. It also explores how lessons learned at the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit upgraded infectious disease response for health care providers around the world and forced both small clinics and regional hospitals in Nebraska to reassess their preparedness for a killer pandemic.

This documentary, produced four years prior to the international COVID pandemic, unexpectedly provided timely insights into what was necessary to deal with highly contagious diseases around the world, and in your own neighborhood.