CDC: U.S. Health Worker with Ebola Should Not Have Flown on Commercial Jet

Josh Levs and Holly Yan, CNN, October 15, 2014

The second Dallas health care worker who was found to have the Ebola virus should not have boarded a commercial jet Monday, health officials say.

Because she had helped care for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, and because another health worker who cared for Duncan had been diagnosed with Ebola, the worker was not allowed to travel on a commercial plane with other people, said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The worker had a temperature of 99.5 Fahrenheit (37.5 Celsius) before she boarded her flight, he added.

Health care workers who had been exposed to Duncan were undergoing self-monitoring. They were allowed to travel but not on a commercial plane with other people, Frieden said.

Moving forward, the CDC will ensure that no one else in such a situation travels outside of a closed environment, he said.

The worker is Amber Vinson, 29, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. She was confirmed to have Ebola overnight.

AmberVinson

Amber Vinson

Now, she will be transferred from the Dallas hospital to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which has successfully treated two other patients. It is now treating a third: a male health care worker who was infected in Sierra Leone.

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Both Dallas health workers had “extensive contact” with Duncan on September 28-30, when he had “extensive production of body fluids” such as vomit and diarrhea, Frieden told reporters in a conference call.

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The risk of exposure to the passengers who were on the plane with Vinson is low, since she did not yet have symptoms, health officials said Wednesday. The Ebola virus is not contagious before symptoms set in.

Still, the CDC wants to interview all 132 passengers who were on the plane with her.

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Vinson, who lives alone, is in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

The news that she contracted Ebola cast further doubt on the hospital’s ability to handle the virus and protect employees.

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Seventy-five health care workers in Dallas are being monitored for any Ebola symptoms, Varga said.

Separately, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who is overseeing the response efforts, said 48 other people in the community still are being monitored after having contact with Duncan, who was Dallas’ first Ebola patient. Those 48 are asymptomatic, and Sunday will mark the end of the window in which they could get sick.

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An official close to the situation says that in hindsight, Duncan should have been transferred immediately to either Emory University Hospital in Atlanta or Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Those hospitals are among only four in the country that have biocontainment units and have been preparing for years to treat a highly infectious disease like Ebola.

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Also Tuesday, National Nurses United made troubling allegations about the hospital, claiming “guidelines were constantly changing” and “there were no protocols” about how to deal with the deadly virus.

“The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell,” NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. “We’re deeply alarmed.”

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[Editor’s Note: Miss Vinson traveled to Ohio to plan a wedding and visit family.]

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