Infected nurse allowed to take commercial flight to Ohio

A second Texas nurse who has contracted Ebola flew on a commercial flight from Ohio to Dallas with a slight temperature the day before she was diagnosed, health officials said on Wednesday, raising new concerns about U.S. efforts to control the disease http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/15/us-health-ebola-usa-idUSKCN0I40UE20141015.
Chances that other passengers on the plane were infected were very low, but the nurse should not have been traveling on the flight, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told reporters.

The woman, Amber Vinson, 29, was isolated immediately after reporting a fever on Tuesday, Texas Department of State Health Services officials said. She had treated Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola and was the first patient diagnosed with the virus in the United States.

Vinson, a worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, had taken a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland, Ohio to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Monday, the officials said.

The latest revelation raised fresh questions about the handling of Duncan’s case and its aftermath by both the hospital and the CDC.

The CDC said earlier that it was asking all of the more than 130 passengers who shared the Frontier flight to call a CDC hotline.

In Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama had abruptly postponed a political trip he was to make on Wednesday to convene a high-level meeting about the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak.

The move suggested a higher level of concern at the White House after reports emerged about Vinson, who government officials said was being transferred for treatment to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

At least 4,4493 people have died in West Africa in the worst Ebola outbreak since the disease was identified in 1976, but cases in the United States and Europe have been limited. The virus can cause fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea, and spreads through contact with bodily fluids.

Frieden said Vinson had been monitoring herself for symptoms of Ebola and failed to report that her temperature had risen to 99.5 degrees before she departed for Dallas. Even so, Frieden said the risk to other passengers was “very low” because she did not vomit on the flight and was not bleeding.

He added that authorities had identified three people who had direct contact with her before she was isolated.

Dr. Mary DiOrio, interim chief of the Ohio Department of Health’s Division of Prevention and Health Promotion, told reporters Vinson visited family in Akron from Oct. 8 to Oct. 13 before she flew to Dallas on Frontier.

U.S. airline stocks tumbled again on Wednesday on renewed fears of a drop-off in air travel. Ebola fears also contributed to a nearly 2 percent drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was under pressure from global economic concerns.

Over the weekend, 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham became the first person to be infected with Ebola in the United States. She had cared for Duncan during much of his 11 days in the hospital. He died in an isolation ward on Oct. 8.

The hospital said on Tuesday that Pham was “in good condition.”

National Nurses United, which is both a union and a professional association for U.S. nurses, said on Tuesday that the hospital lacked protocols to deal with an Ebola patient, offered no advance training and provided nurses with insufficient gear, including suits that left their necks exposed.

‘PILED TO THE CEILING’

Basic principles of infection control were violated by both the hospital’s Infectious Disease Department and CDC officials, the nurses said, with no one picking up hazardous waste “as it piled to the ceiling.”

“The nurses strongly feel unsupported, unprepared, lied to, and deserted to handle the situation on their own,” the statement said.

The hospital said in a statement it had instituted measures to create a safe working environment and it was reviewing and responding to the nurses’ criticisms.

Speaking early Wednesday on CBS “This Morning,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell declined to comment on the nurses’ allegations.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a news conference Wednesday that the second infected nurse lived alone and had no pets.

He said local health officials moved quickly to clean affected areas and to alert her neighbors and friends. A decontamination could be seen taking place at her residence.

EARLY WAKEUP

Residents at The Bend East in the Village apartment complex were awoken early Wednesday by text messages from property managers saying a neighbor had tested positive for Ebola, and pamphlets had been stuffed beneath doors and left under doormats, said a resident, who asked not to be named.

Other residents were concerned enough that they were limiting time spent outdoors.

“Everybody thinks this won’t happen because we are in the United States. But it is happening,” said Esmeralda Lazalde, who lives about a mile from where the first nurse who contracted Ebola resides.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is doing everything it can to contain the virus, said Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which owns the hospital. “I don’t think we have a systematic institutional problem,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

At the same briefing, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s chief political officer, said authorities were anticipating additional possible Ebola cases.

“We are preparing contingencies for more, and that is a very real possibility,” Jenkins said.

Frieden has come under pressure over the response and preparedness for Ebola, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said U.S. President Barack Obama was confident of Frieden’s ability to lead the public health effort.

Burwell, in a series of television interviews on Wednesday, said officials were adding staff to ensure the hospital in Dallas followed procedures to prevent transmission of the virus.

She said there would be round-the-clock site managers to oversee how healthcare workers put on and remove the protective gear used when treating Ebola patients.

In addition to extra CDC staff on site, two nurses from Emory University, in Atlanta, which has a specialized hospital that has treated other Ebola patients flown in from West Africa, were in Dallas to train staff.

Prospects for a quick end to the contagion diminished as the World Health Organization predicted that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three worst-hit countries, could produce as many as 10,000 new cases a week by early December.

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