As workers decontaminate the apartment building of the second U.S. Ebola patient, neighbors of the infected Texas nurse are concerned. USA Today reports on Monday that residents on her block and especially people living inside the nurse’s apartment complex are shaken by the possible spread of the deadly virus. However, Dallas County officials say it’s not news that should bring about panic.
On September 30, the first case of Ebola in the U.S. was diagnosed in a man visiting from Liberia. Thomas Duncan, a 42-year-old Liberian national, was being treated at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan has since died from the disease, but not before spreading it to a Texas healthcare worker who closely cared for Duncan during his 11-day hospital stay.
Fox News reports that the CDC confirmed Ebola in the female nurse on Sunday afternoon. Questions are now being raised as to how the nurse became infected and exactly how many other people she put at risk. The unnamed nurse was wearing the recommended protective gear on the many occasions she attended to Duncan, but one expert claims Ebola caregivers may need to add more layers of protection.
The newly infected nurse was originally thought to have been at low risk of contracting the virus. The CDC is now saying that there was an obvious breach in protocol. Dr. Tom Frieden with the CDC says she may have become infected from touching her contaminated protective gear. According to Frieden, care of Ebola patients can be done safely but “requires meticulous and scrupulous attention to infection control.”
Health officials have already reportedly identified all potential exposures. A close contact of the infected nurse has been placed in isolation, and a dog residing in her apartment has shown no signs of infection but will be taken care of, according to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Rawlings also believes that all citizens of Dallas are safe. The Dallas fire and rescue hazmat team are working to decontaminate the nurse’s apartment and car, as well as areas outside her apartment building.
One neighbor said that he went back to bed after Dallas police told him not to panic, saying there’s nothing he can do about it. Other people in the nurse’s neighborhood are understandably fearful. One shaken young neighbor said that “it’s a little creepy that it’s just right down the street now.” Director of Dallas County Health, Zachary Thompson, passed out fliers and stressed how difficult it would be for neighbors to actually contract the disease.
In fact, according to the CDC, only other healthcare workers and close family and friends of the infected nurse are at the highest risk of getting the disease. Spread of Ebola can only occur with close contact of an infected person’s bodily fluids, and those fluids must come in contact with either an open wound or someone else’s nose, mouth or eyes. Dr. Tom Frieden reiterated that Ebola is not airborne and cannot infect people through casual contact.
Said Frieden, “People don’t get exposed by sitting next to someone on the bus.” Frieden went on to say that Ebola is not as infectious as the flu, the measles or the common cold. The infected nurse is said to be in stable condition at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, and all other hospital staff that had close contact with Duncan are closely being monitored. The hospital also said that it is “triple-checking” their full compliance with updated CDC guidelines.
More than 4,000 people in West Africa have been killed by the current Ebola outbreak. The initial outbreak is said to have started with a 2-year-old boy on December 2, 2013 in the Guinea village of Meliandou, Guéckédou. The young boy died four days after becoming ill, followed by his sister, mother and grandmother. The first case of Ebola in Liberia was reported in late March 2014. Thomas Duncan became the first person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with Ebola. Before traveling to the United States, Duncan reportedly lied on a pre-flight questionnaire about his contact with Ebola in Liberia.