‘Breach in Protocol’ is Cause of Second U.S. Ebola Infection

Dallas Police stand watch outside the apartment where a health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital lives and tested positive for Ebola on Saturday.(Photo: Larry W. Smith, epa)
Dallas Police stand watch outside the apartment where a health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital lives and tested positive for Ebola on Saturday.(Photo: Larry W. Smith, epa)

A Dallas health care worker who provided care for the Ebola patient who died there last week tested positive for the deadly virus — and sent health officials scrambling Sunday to determine the “breach in protocol” that resulted in her infection.

The woman was among caregivers for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died Wednesday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. If the care-giver’s positive test is confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it would be the first known Ebola case transmitted in the U.S.

CDC chief Thomas Frieden said Sunday his agency will investigate how a worker in full protective gear contracted the virus.

“At some point there was a breach in protocol,” Frieden said. “That breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”

Frieden cited four steps being taken by the CDC: ensuring the woman is cared for safely; identifying her contacts; treating all health care workers who cared for Duncan as having potentially been exposed; and reviewing procedures used to protect health care workers who treat Ebola patients.

Frieden called the positive test “very concerning” but stressed that the protocols for the care of Ebola patients are safe if done properly. He said that removing the protective gear incorrectly, for example, raises risk.

“This tells us there is a need to enhance training and to make sure protocols are followed,” he said. He said the CDC will study ways to reduce the number of health care workers involved in treatment, to reduce medical procedures — noting that kidney dialysis, for example, could increase risk — and to provide on-site monitoring to ensure that protocols are followed.

The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa, the vast majority of them in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. In the U.S., tougher screening for Ebola began Saturday at New York’s Kennedy Airport, where federal Homeland Security officials began screening travelers from those nations, taking their temperature and observing them for other Ebola symptoms.

The program will be added at four more U.S. airports in coming days. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said more action might be needed.

“There’s a lot of talk about banning flights,” McCaul said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “I think we need to … look at the idea of potentially temporarily suspending the 13,000 visas that would be coming out of this region.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, said the U.S. needs “some kind of czar” to take charge of the Ebola response.” “Americans have to be reassured,” McCain said.

The Dallas care-giver reported having a fever Friday night and was hospitalized, isolated and referred for testing within 90 minutes, Clay Jenkins, Dallas County’s chief executive and its Homeland Security director, said at a news conference.

“While this is obviously bad news, it is not news that should bring about panic,” Jenkins said. “We knew it was a possibility that a second person would contract the virus. We had a contingency plan in place.”

The woman, who requested anonymity, was listed in stable condition, Jenkins said.

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SOURCE: USA Today – John Bacon

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