A nurse identified as the second Dallas hospital worker to test positive for Ebola is being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Amber Vinson, 29, would be the fourth person with Ebola to be treated in Emory’s special isolation unit. She is expected to arrive late Wednesday.
Emory said in a statement Wednesday that the CDC and Texas Health Resources specifically requested that the patient be transferred to Emory.
Emory’s infectious disease unit is where the first two Ebola patients in the United States were treated. The two American medical missionaries, who caught the disease while in West Africa, were successfully treated and released in August.
A third person with Ebola arrived at Emory on Sept. 9 and has been in the special unit since then. On Wednesday, that patient, who has not been publicly identified, released a statement that said in part:
“Given the national focus on Ebola, particularly with the diagnosis in two health care workers, I want to share the news that I am recovering from this disease, and that I anticipate being discharged very soon, free from the Ebola virus and able to return safely to my family and to my community.”
“I want the public to know that although Ebola is a serious, complex disease, it is possible to recover and return to a healthy life,’’ the unidentified patient said. “I wish to retain my anonymity for now, but I anticipate sharing more information in future weeks as I complete my recovery.”
Ebola has had a high fatality rate in the three West African nations where the public health system is in very poor shape. But health officials say it can be effectively treated, especially when caught early.
The infectious disease isolation unit at Emory is located apart from the main patient areas. It is one of only four such units in the country, according to Emory. It is also geographically close to the CDC itself.
The Vinson case follows the Ebola diagnosis of another nurse, Nina Pham, 26, who cared for the same Ebola-infected patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
The CDC said Wednesday that Vinson had flown on Frontier Airlines from Cleveland, Ohio, to Dallas on the evening before she developed Ebola symptoms.
The CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, said she had violated CDC guidelines against anyone using public transport while undergoing self-monitoring for exposure to Ebola.
“We will from this moment forward ensure that no other individual who is being monitored for exposure undergoes travel in any way other than controlled movement,” Frieden said.
Vinson and Pham had been in the room with Duncan at the Dallas hospital during his most intense period of vomiting and diarrhea, but before he had been diagnosed as having Ebola, USA Today reported.
Duncan died of the disease Oct. 18.
Even though Vinson did not report having a fever until Tuesday, the day after she returned home, she should not have boarded a commercial airliner after learning that Pham had been diagnosed with Ebola, government officials said.
Infected Ebola patients are not considered contagious until they have symptoms. Duncan, for instance, had no symptoms when he flew into Dallas on Sept. 20 from West Africa. No one else on that flight has shown any symptoms.
Frieden said it was unlikely that other passengers or airline crew members on Vinson’s flight were at risk because the nurse did not have any vomiting or bleeding.
Still, the CDC is alerting the 132 passengers aboard the Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday “because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning,” the Associated Press reported.
Frontier Airlines said in a statement that the passenger “exhibited no symptoms or sign of illness” while on the flight and that the plane had since been thoroughly cleaned.
Ramping up the fear
“What happened there [in Dallas], regardless of the reason, is not acceptable. It shouldn’t have happened,” Anthony Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of NIH, said Wednesday on MSNBC.
In Washington, the White House said President Obama’s trip to New Jersey and Connecticut would be postponed. The president was to meet instead with top officials who are coordinating the government’s response to Ebola.
“We are looking at every element of our personal protection equipment and infection control in the hospital,” said Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, which operates Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
The CDC has acknowledged that the federal government was not aggressive enough in managing Ebola and containing the virus as it spread from an infected patient to the first nurse infected, Pham.
The second case may help health officials determine where the infection-control breach is occurring and make practices safer for health workers everywhere, the Associated Press reported.
Nurses allege sloppy methods
The new case lends support to nurses’ claims this week that they have inadequate training and in some cases, inadequate protective gear to take care of Ebola patients, the AP reported.
“They’re not prepared” for what they are being asked to do, said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, a union with 185,000 members.
KHOU.com, WFAA and The Associated Press reported that the union said Duncan was left in an open area of a Dallas emergency room for hours, and the nurses treating him worked for days without proper protective gear and faced constantly changing protocols,
Nurses were forced to use medical tape to secure openings in their flimsy garments, worried that their necks and heads were exposed as they cared for the patient, who had explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting, said Deborah Burger of National Nurses United.
Among the nurses’ allegations was that the Ebola patient’s lab samples were allowed to travel through the hospital’s pneumatic tubes, opening the possibility of contaminating the specimen delivery system. The nurses also alleged that hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling.
Wendell Watson, a Presbyterian spokesman, did not respond to specific claims by the nurses but said the hospital has not received similar complaints.
“Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority and we take compliance very seriously,” he said in a statement. “We have numerous measures in place to provide a safe working environment, including mandatory annual training and a 24/7 hotline and other mechanisms that allow for anonymous reporting.”
He said the hospital would “review and respond to any concerns raised by our nurses and all employees.”
Pham released a statement Tuesday through the hospital saying she was “doing well.” She was listed in good condition.
WFAA in Dallas reported Tuesday that Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the Ebola patients who was successfully treated at Emory, donated blood to Pham over the weekend. He has previously donated blood to other Ebola patients. Antibodies from a survivor’s blood may help patients fight off the disease.