The Ebola virus at a Dallas hospital has now spread to a second healthcare worker. An unnamed male nurse who was on the treatment team for Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has now been confirmed as carrying the Ebola virus.
MSN News, citing an Oct. 15 report from The Associated Press, said the “worker reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Health officials said the worker was among those who took care of Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed with Ebola after coming to the U.S. from Liberia. Duncan died Oct. 8.”
The nurse’s blood sample was analyzed by a public health laboratory in Austin, Texas. The CDC, who is also confirming the results, said that an “additional health care worker testing positive for Ebola is a serious concern, and the CDC has already taken active steps to minimize the risk to health care workers and the patient.”
The spreading of the disease among so-called protected health care workers has drawn a strong rebuke from National Nurses United, which represents the nation’s largest unionized nurse workforce. The union group said dozens of nurses treated Duncan for days without covering their mouths and hands, and complained that “hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling and safety protocols constantly changed.”
RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of Nurses United, said statements taken from “several” nurses at Presbyterian hospital indicated a host of sloppy and alarming allegations, including the fact that Duncan was initially housed, un-isolated, in a room with several other patients when he was brought in – this despite the fact Duncan’s ambulance chart showed he “continues to have explosive diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and projectile vomiting” – and that those patients who were potentially exposed were only kept in isolation for a few days before being reintroduced back to shared hospital rooms.
The incubation period for Ebola can range from two to 21 days.
Deborah Burger, co-president of National Nurses United, said “there was no advance preparedness on what to do with the patient, there was no protocol, there was no system. Hospital managers have assured nurses that proper equipment has been ordered but it has not arrived yet.”
Presbyterian spokesman Wendell Watson issued a statement in reply, stating in part: “Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority and we take compliance very seriously. We have numerous measures in place to provide a safe working environment, including mandatory annual training and a 24/7 hotline and other mechanisms that allow for anonymous reporting.”
Writes The Associated Press:
Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, has acknowledged that the government wasn’t aggressive enough in managing Ebola and containing the virus as it spread from an infected patient to a nurse at a Dallas hospital… Frieden outlined new steps this week designed to stop the spread of the disease, including the creation of an Ebola response team, increased training for health care workers nationwide and changes at the Texas hospital to minimize the risk of more infections.
“We could’ve sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from day one about exactly how this should be managed,” Frieden said Tuesday. “I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient — the first patient — was diagnosed. That might have prevented this infection.”
The CDC has identified a total of 124 individuals who are at risk from Ebola – 76 health care workers and patients who were in contact with Duncan, and an additional 48 individuals who were near Duncan prior to his being brought to the hospital. Nurse Nina Pham, 26, who was the first to be diagnosed with Ebola at the hospital after treating Thomas Duncan, said she was “doing well” after she received a plasma blood transfusion from a Dr. Kent Brantly, who had recently recovered from the virus.
The Ebola scare in Dallas: Can it be contained?