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- Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins; “Not news that should bring about panic.”
- Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings: “We have a plan in place….”
- CDC: “This development is understandably disturbing…”
- Dr. Frieden, “At some point, there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection”
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who is a former student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and who helped care for Ebola patient Thomas Duncan tested positive for the virus, officials said Sunday.
“The university learned this evening that a 2010 TCU nursing alum, who graduated from the university’s accelerated BSN nursing program, has become the second patient diagnosed with the Ebola virus,” TCU spokesperson Lisa Albert said in an email. “At this point, TCU has no reason to believe this alum has been on campus recently. ”
Albert said the school set up a committee of staff with oversight of the health center, residential services and other relevant areas to monitor the virus after the first reported case.
“We ask everyone to please keep this 2010 alum in your thoughts and prayers during this time,” Albert said.
The latest news capped a day of revelations about the second case, which came less than a week after Mr. Duncan died from the Ebola virus.
At a news conference on Sunday morning, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins stated that this is “not news that should bring about panic.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings reiterated this information, saying that the citizens of the city are safe. “We have a plan in place to send hazmat units into the patient’s apartment,” he said, noting that the individual’s car has already been decontaminated. There is also a pet at the home that needs to be removed.
“This development is understandably disturbing news for the patient, the patient’s family and colleagues, and the greater Dallas community,” the Centers for Disease Control said in a statement.
The nurse, who has not been publicly identified, wore protective gear while treating the Liberian patient, and she has been unable to point to how the breach might have occurred, said Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Duncan was the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with Ebola.
The CDC confirmed Sunday afternoon that the woman had tested positive for Ebola — the first known case of the disease being contracted or transmitted in the U.S.
The missteps with the first patient and now the infection of a caregiver raised questions about assurances given by U.S. health officials that any American hospital should be able to treat an Ebola patient and that the disease would be contained.
President Obama asked the CDC to move as quickly as possible to investigate the incident, the White House said.
Duncan was the first patient diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the United States after traveling into the country from Africa. Duncan died on Wednesday after more than 10 days of treatment.
Health officials are looking into how the worker removed her personal protective gear, which includes a gown, two sets of gloves, a face mask and an eye shield and are also are examining the intensive medical procedures Duncan received. Those procedures include kidney dialysis and use of a breathing machine.
Both involve inserting tubes into blood vessels or an airway and can raise the risk of contact with bodily fluids, officials said.
She reported a low-grade fever on Friday night and was immediately isolated and referred for further testing. Those preliminary test results, received late Saturday night, showed a lower level of the virus in her blood stream than was detected in Duncan’s tests.
In the meantime, the Dallas hospital closed its emergency room to incoming patients, citing the staffing needs of treating yet another Ebola patient. The ER did open briefly later in the day only to close again, Dallas Fire-Rescue said.
Health officials said that the patient is in stable condition. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the worker was with the original Ebola patient on “multiple occasions, and that included extensive contact.”
Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at the hospital, said the worker did wear a protective suit while administering care to Duncan, and was thought to be at a low risk for getting the virus.
But, according to Frieden, “at some point, there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection.” Investigators with the CDC are now looking into what that breach could have been. They are focusing the investigation on the kidney dialysis process, the removal of Duncan’s respiratory equipment, and the removal of the worker’s protective gear.
Frieden said that taking off protective gear is a “major potential area for risk” as it is difficult to take off a contaminated suit without being exposed to the virus. There is concern that other hospital workers could also be at risk if they had a similar breach in protocol.
“The developments in Dallas are cause to double down on all our efforts to make sure health care workers and hospitals are properly trained and that they meticulously follow guidelines while triaging potential Ebola patients or providing care to Ebola patients,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said to CBS News.
“Any hospital across the US must be prepared. However, as we continue our outreach efforts, it may be a prudent measure to suggest certain hospitals which have specially trained personnel and which have exercised their Ebola response plans thoroughly be prepared to receive [patient] first.”
No other individuals — either hospital workers or those among the initial 48 people being monitored — have shown any Ebola symptoms so far. According to the CDC, the longer a person is infected with the virus the more infectious they become, which could explain why the health care worker contracted the disease while family members of Duncan have not yet shown any symptoms. However, Frieden warned Duncan’s family members are among those who continue to be monitored and have not yet reached the end of the 21-day incubation period under which symptoms could appear. Meanwhile, CDC officials are reviewing their list of people who may have been exposed to the virus, and plan to take more aggressive action in monitoring. There is expected to be a new number of people being watched by the CDC, but that number is not yet known.
“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, explained in the Sunday statement. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”
Health officials have interviewed the patient and identified only one other individual who may have been exposed while the health care worker was showing symptoms.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person, or exposure to contaminated objects, such as needles. People are not contagious before symptoms — including fever and vomiting — develop. As a patient gets more sick, they also become more contagious as there is more of the virus in their blood.
The patient lives in the 5700 block of Marquita Avenue in Dallas. Rawlings has been walking around the neighborhood on Sunday morning to help ease fears and answer the questions of concerned residents.
Dallas officials knocked on doors, made automated phone calls and passed out fliers to notify people within a four-block radius of the health care worker’s apartment complex about the situation, though they said there was no reason for neighbors to be concerned.
Dallas police officers stood guard outside the complex Sunday and told people not to go inside. One said an industrial barrel outside contained hazardous waste taken from inside the building. Nearby residents periodically came out of their homes to ask about the commotion.
Kara Lutley, who lives a half-block from the complex, said she never received a call or other emergency notice and first heard about it on the news.
“I’m not overly concerned that I’ll get Ebola,” she said.
The nurse’s dog was also in the apartment and crews late Sunday brought the animal food and water. Mayor Rawlings told USA Today the animal would not be euthanized.
Frieden on Sunday raised concerns about the possible breach of safety protocol and told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that among the things CDC will investigate is how the workers took off protective gear, because removing it incorrectly can lead to contamination. Investigators will also look at dialysis and intubation, in which a tube is inserted into a patient’s airway so a ventilator can help with breathing. Both procedures have the potential to spread infectious material.
Health care workers treating Ebola patients are among the most vulnerable, even if wearing protective gear. A Spanish nurse assistant recently became the first health care worker infected outside West Africa during the ongoing outbreak. She helped care for a missionary priest who was brought to a Madrid hospital. More than 370 health care workers in West Africa have fallen ill or died since the epidemic began earlier this year.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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