Second Nurse With Ebola Was Given OK To Fly; Obama Orders "SWAT Teams"
The second Texas health care worker infected with Ebola should not have flown from Dallas to Cleveland and back again because she had a low fever, CDC Director Tom Frieden says. President Obama called for "more aggressive" patient monitoring and said he kissed nurses who treated Ebola patients.
Updated — Oct. 16, 12:45 a.m. ET
A second health care worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas has tested positive for Ebola, officials said Wednesday.
The second infected patient was identified as Amber Joy Vinson, 29, a registered nurse in Texas since 2012.
Vinson lives alone and does not have pets, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
We want to remind potentially affected employees that they are not contagious unless and until they demonstrate any symptoms, yet we understand this is a frightening situation for them and their families. We will be coordinating this effort with the county monitors who are already regularly checking on their temperatures for any sign of infection.
President Obama canceled political travel Wednesday and addressed the outbreak, saying Ebola monitoring must be "more aggressive."
He said he ordered quick-acting "SWAT teams" of medical experts to travel to hospitals where infected patients turn up within a day.
The president also said he ordered health officials to understand "how we are going to make sure that something like this isn't repeated."
He added that he "shook hands with, hugged and kissed, not just the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory" hospital in Atlanta, where workers are already treating three patients with Ebola and will soon get a fourth. "And I felt perfectly safe in doing so."
The Associated Press obtained medical records detailing the contact Vinson had with Duncan. The CDC said that both nurses who contracted Ebola treated Duncan prior to his Ebola diagnosis while he was suffering from vomiting and diarrhea.
The CDC said that Vinson traveled on two Frontier Airlines flights since Duncan arrived at the hospital — one flight took place the day before she reported to the hospital with Ebola symptoms.
The CDC is asking passengers on both flights to contact them and answer questions from health officials. "Individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored," the CDC said.
The most recent trip, Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/Forth Worth, took place on Oct. 13. There were 132 passengers on that plane, the airline said in a news release.
The flight landed at 8:16 p.m. and went through normal cleaning procedures. The plane was returned to service and was cleaned again in Cleveland on the evening of Oct. 14, the airline said.
The customer previously flew from the Dallas area to Cleveland on Frontier flight 1143 on Oct. 10, the airline said.
Vinson reported a low fever to the CDC before her flight, CNN and CBS reported, but she was given the OK to fly.
CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a conference call Wednesday that because she was in an exposed group and had a fever of 99.5°F, she should not have flown. The threshold for fever as an Ebola symptom is typically 100.4.
"I don't think that changes the level of risk of people around here," he said. "She did not vomit, she was not bleeding. The level of risk of people around her would be extremely low."
The CDC will be contacting all 132 passengers who were on the flight to Cleveland with Vinson.
Frontier Airlines CEO Dave Siegel said Wednesday night in a message to airline employees that Vinson may have had symptoms while on board the flight. Six crew members — two pilots and four flight attendants — were placed on paid leave for 21 days.
"At 1:55 p.m. MDT (Wednesday) Frontier was notified by the CDC that the passenger may have been symptomatic earlier than initially suspected; including the possibility of possessing symptoms while onboard the flight.
In light of the new information, Frontier determines that the aircraft will remain out of service and ferries it back to Denver from Cleveland without customers. The flight departs at 6:20 p.m. EDT and arrives in Denver at 7:20 p.m. MDT. In an abundance of caution, it is determined that the aircraft will receive a fourth cleaning since the infected customer was onboard. Though not required, this cleaning will consist of the removal of seat covers and carpets in the immediate vicinity of the passenger seat. The airline will also change the environmental filters onboard.
NOTE: These extraordinary actions went beyond CDC recommendations. These steps were taken out of concern for the safety of our customers and employees. Steps such as removing the aircraft from service, removing aircraft seat covers and carpet and replacing environmental filters as well as placing the crew on paid leave were not requested nor mandated by the CDC. Frontier expects that the aircraft will return to service in a few days."
Flight 1143, on which the woman flew from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth, was the last trip of the day Monday for the Airbus A320. But Tuesday morning the plane was flown back to Cleveland and then to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., back to Cleveland and then to Atlanta and finally back to Cleveland again, according to Daniel Baker, chief executive of the flight-monitoring site Flightaware.com.
Local officials were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss declaring a state of emergency.
The move could help put in place travel restrictions for the area, NBC reported, including barring those who have been exposed to the virus from using public transportation such as buses and commercial planes.
Officials said Vinson was traveling to Ohio to prepare for her wedding.
Frieden said Vinson "should not have traveled on a commercial airline" after coming in contact with Duncan.
On a conference call Wednesday afternoon to update the media on the condition of the two infected healthcare workers, Frieden confirmed Vinson treated Duncan and then traveled to Ohio prior to showing symptoms of Ebola.
The CDC is still in the process of reaching out to and evaluating the other passengers who were on the flight to Ohio with the second patient. Frieden said the risk to those passengers is "extremely low."
Frieden said that the CDC will evaluate 48 other health care workers who came in contact with Duncan in the days before he was diagnosed with Ebola.
"From this moment forward, we'll be sure that no one who has been exposed will travel except under controlled movement," Frieden said.
Vinson will be transferred from Texas to Emory Hospital in Atlanta for treatment. On the first infected nurse, Nina Pham, Frieden said that her condition is improved.
Kent State University said Vinson is related to three employees at the school. Those family members have been asked to avoid the campus for 21 days.
Kent State University released this statement Wednesday:
Kent State University has informed its university community that the second confirmed Ebola patient, a nurse who helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan, is related to three Kent State employees. The patient was not showing any symptoms of the disease when she traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday, Oct. 10, and returned to Dallas, Texas, on Monday, Oct. 13. In Dallas, the patient detected a low-grade fever on Tuesday, Oct. 14, and entered a Dallas hospital for isolation and treatment. The patient was tested for Ebola, and results on Wednesday, Oct. 15, confirmed the diagnosis.
"It's important to note that the patient was not on the Kent State campus," said Kent State President Beverly Warren. "She stayed with her family at their home in Summit County and did not step foot on our campus. We want to assure our university community that we are taking this information seriously, taking steps to communicate what we know."
"We're coordinating with local public health authorities to ensure all precautions are taken," said Dr. Angela DeJulius, director of University Health Services at Kent State. "Under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patients infected with the Ebola virus are not considered contagious until they show symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches and headaches.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we're asking the patient's family members to remain off campus for the next 21 days and self-monitor per CDC protocol," DeJulius continued.
The patient is a graduate of Kent State, receiving degrees in 2006 and 2008.
Of the 77 people monitored for Ebola at the Texas Heath Presbyterian Hospital, two now have tested positive with a "very real possibility" of more cases, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.
Dallas fire and rescue workers began decontaminating Vinson's apartment complex Wednesday morning.
The second phase of cleaning her apartment and car will be done by early afternoon, Rawlings said.
Officials notified Vinson's neighbors in person and through fliers. Reverse 911 calls were sent to people living in the apartment complex.
After making "an initial report of a fever" Tuesday, Vinson was "immediately isolated."
Vinson provided care for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died last week after being treated at the hospital, and tested positive for the disease following preliminary tests by the Texas Department of State Health Services' laboratory overnight.
Confirmation testing is underway at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's laboratory, the statement said.
While this is troubling news for the patient, the patient's family and colleagues and the greater Dallas community, the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services remain confident that wider spread in the community can be prevented with proper public health measures including ongoing contact tracing, health monitoring among those known to have been in contact with the index patient and immediate isolations if symptoms develop.
The first health care worker to contract the disease at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital — 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham — was diagnosed with the deadly virus late Saturday.
Health officials cited a breach in safety protocol as the reason for the infection in that instance.
On Tuesday, the CDC detailed additional steps they were taking t make sure the hospital is prepared to treat Ebola patients.
Nurses registered with the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where two health care workers have tested positive for Ebola, said the hospital was not equipped to handle the situation, leaving workers prone to contamination.
According to a statement provided by the largest U.S. nurse's union, "No one knew what the protocols were or were able to verify what kind of personal protective equipment should be worn and there was no training."
From an ABC News report:
Duncan was left in a nonquarantined zone for several hours, and a nurse supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities after demanding that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit, according to the union's statement. Additionally, Duncan's lab specimens were sent through the hospital's tube system, potentially contaminating the system, the nurses said.
On Tuesday, CDC head Frieden said 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 said that the CDC is currently monitoring 76 people who may have come in contact with Duncan or his blood while he was being treated at the Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.