US Nurse Contracts Ebola

Despite wearing protective gear, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who helped treat the first US Ebola patient has tested positive for the virus.

By | October 14, 2014

Transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virusWIKIMEDIA, CDC, FREDERICK MURPHYThis past weekend marked the first time a patient in the U.S. has contracted the Ebola virus, which continues its rampage through West Africa. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the diagnosis on Sunday (October 12). The patient, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, is now reported to be in stable condition, Texas Health Resources chief clinical officer Dan Varga told CNN, and another person, a “close contact” of the nurse, has been placed in isolation.

The nurse, identified by the Houston Chronicle (Chron) as Nina Pham, is believed to have caught the virus during her multiple visits with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first US patient with Ebola who died last week. According to the Chron, Phame was one of about 70 health-care workers who helped treat Duncan, drawing his blood, intubating him, and cleaning up his bodily fluids. Pham apparently had “extensive contact” on “multiple occasions” with Duncan, CDC Director Tom Frieden said at a news conference Sunday. And despite having worn a protective gown, gloves, mask, and a shield, “at some point, there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”

The Dallas Fire Department has decontaminated Pham’s car and the public areas of her apartment complex, Mayor Mike Rawlings told CNN, while local police are limiting people’s access to the area and alerting neighbors to the news. “We have knocked on every door on that block,” Rawlings said. He added, however, that, unlike the first case of Ebola contraction in Spain, Pham’s dog would be saved. “The dog’s very important to the patient, and we want it to be safe,” Rawlings told USA Today.

Meanwhile, an Ebola scare in Boston appears to have been a false alarm, Reuters reported, though the patient will remain in isolation for now. The patient, who had recently been to Liberia, developed symptoms, including a headache and muscle aches, last week, forcing a brief shutdown of a Braintree medical center on Sunday, according to the New York Post. The patient was then taken in an ambulance to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “This patient does not appear to meet CDC criteria to be considered someone at high risk for Ebola and the likelihood of Ebola Virus Disease is extremely low,” the hospital told Reuters in an e-mail. The two patients who were quarantined in New York City’s Bellevue Hospital were also cleared of Ebola, according to NY Daily News.

To prevent more Ebola cases from entering the country, the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection have begun implementing a new screening strategy at the five US airports that receive the vast majority of passengers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, while monitoring is heightened at other airports as well. New York’s JFK has so far flagged 91 passengers as being at high risk for Ebola, NPR reported, but so far, none have had the virus. Similarly, five passengers with flu-like symptoms were yesterday escorted by emergency medical workers off a flight arriving at Boston’s Logan Airport from Dubai, Reuters reported. Fortunately, the chances that these people, none of whom had been to West Africa recently, actually have Ebola is “exceedingly low,” CDC spokeswoman Shelly Diaz told Reuters.

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