Following the Ebola diagnosis earlier this week of Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, a second nurse at the hospital, 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, has tested positive for the virus.
Pham was the first person to contract the Ebola virus in the United States.
Both nurses were part of a team that treated Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, who died on Oct. 8 after becoming the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Officials are now tracking at least 120 people who had contact with Duncan.
Dr. Kent Brantly, a Texas physician who survived the virus, has donated blood to Pham, according to the nonprofit medical mission group Samaritan’s Purse.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that Vinson traveled by air on Oct. 13, the day before she reported symptoms. The workers who cared for Duncan are monitoring themselves for Ebola symptoms and are not allowed to take commercial flights, but Vinson was given permission to fly by officals.
The CDC is asking all 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13 to call 1 800-CDC-INFO (1 800-232-4636). The CDC says the risk of infection is low, but that the agency still wants to interview all of the passengers.
President Barack Obama has ordered an inquiry to find out what went wrong at the Dallas hospital. He is scheduled to hold a videoconference later today with British, French, German, and Italian leaders to discuss the Ebola crisis.
CDC disease investigators will analyze how healthcare workers provided kidney dialysis and respiratory intubation to Duncan. They will also look at how the workers removed their protective gear.
Additional CDC resources are being sent to Texas to help with the investigation. The CDC has also advised the Dallas hospital to name someone to oversee infection control full-time while the Ebola patients are being cared for.
Frieden said that the CDC regrets its initial response to Duncan’s diagnosis, and that more could have been done to contain the infection at the hospital treating him. The CDC will now send a team of experts “within hours” to any hospital in the United States with a confirmed Ebola case.
According to an NBC report, National Nurses United, the largest professional association of registered nurses in the United States, has conducted a survey of more than 1,900 nurses in 46 states and Washington, D.C. The organization found:
- 76 percent of nurses said their hospital still hadn’t communicated to them an official policy on admitting potential patients with Ebola
- 85 percent of nurses said their hospital hadn’t provided educational training sessions on Ebola in which nurses could interact and ask questions
- 37 percent of nurses felt their hospital had insufficient supplies for containing the deadly virus, including face shields, goggles, or fluid-resistant gowns
Meanwhile, passengers are now being screened for Ebola symptoms at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Screenings at Washington Dulles International, Chicago O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, and Newark Liberty International airports are expected to begin Oct. 16.
London’s Heathrow Airport has also begun screening passengers arriving from countries affected by Ebola. Heathrow’s other terminals will have screening in place by the end of the week.
On another front, a United Nations medical worker who was infected with Ebola while working in Liberia has died at a hospital in Germany. The man, originally from the Sudan, died despite receiving experimental drugs to treat the virus.
He was the second member of the U.N. team in Liberia to die from the virus, and the third Ebola patient to contract the disease in West Africa and then be treated in Germany.
In other news, healthcare unions in Liberia called off a strike today to demand an increase in the amount of monthly risk pay they receive to treat Ebola cases, as well as safer working conditions. A union official said the government had forced workers to ignore the strike.
Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia’s assistant minister of health, said the pay was lowered because of the financial burden the large-scale epidemic is causing, and that a strike would adversely affect the progress made so far.
Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal report alleges that some of the teams handling Ebola victims’ bodies in Liberia are accepting bribes to give families death certificates saying their loved ones died of causes other than Ebola, and to leave their bodies unburied.
The Ebola crisis is also causing food shortages, with 40 percent of farms reportedly abandoned in Sierra Leone.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that Ebola is killing 70 percent of the people who are infected with the virus, up from an estimate of 55 percent. The WHO says that there could be 5,000 to 10,000 new Ebola cases a week in West Africa within the next two months. Ebola has been responsible for 4,447 deaths and a total of 8,914 cases in West Africa so far.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Vinson disregarded instructions not to fly. She was in fact given official permission to fly.