Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Second Health Care Worker Tests Positive for Ebola

DALLAS (CN) - A second health care worker has tested positive for Ebola after caring for the late Thomas Eric Duncan, Dallas County officials said Wednesday.

Officials with the Texas Department of State Health Services in Austin and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed the positive test. The unidentified woman self-reported having a fever on Tuesday and was immediately isolated.

"Like Nina Pham , this is a heroic person," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Wednesday morning, "a person who is dedicating her life to helping others and is a servant-leader. This is a person with their life before them and a person who is dealing with this diagnosis with the grit and grace and determination that Nina has dealt with it."

Pham, 26, a Dallas nurse, on Sunday became the first confirmed domestic case of Ebola transmission after she was placed into isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Hospital officials upgraded Pham's condition from stable to good on Tuesday.

"Health officials have interviewed the latest patient to quickly identify any contacts or potential exposures, and those people will be monitored," DSHD spokeswoman Carrie Williams said. "The type of monitoring depends on the nature of their interactions and the potential they were exposed to the virus."

"Like Nina, the protocol to find the diagnosis worked well - within 90 minutes of taking her temperature, [the second patient] was in isolation in the hospital," Jenkins said.

Identifying "two fronts" in Dallas' fight against the deadly disease, Jenkins said the 48 contacts with Duncan identified by the CDC are "all asymptomatic with no fever."

"We are at the tail end of their monitoring period," he said. "Their 21-day monitoring period will end on Sunday."

He said the odds of those contacts having Ebola are "extremely remote."

"However, at the hospital, we have a situation involving 77 people, two of which have tested positive," Jenkins said. "We are preparing contingencies for more, and that is a very real possibility. You can imagine the anxiety of the families of these 77 people. You can imagine the gunshot that this is to the family that is Presbyterian that has taken care of this community for many, many years."

Jenkins asked the community to "rally around the human beings that are suffering and worrying even as they go about their calling in serving others."

Hospital officials previously had said only 18 health care workers at Presbyterian were being monitored.

Dr. Dan Vargas, chief clinical officer and senior executive vice president of Presbyterian parent Texas Health Resources, deemed the diagnosis part of an "unprecedented crisis."

He defended the monitoring protocols in place, saying they worked in this case.

"The health and safety of our patients and employees remain our highest priority," Vargas said.

Presbyterian was forced to release a statement Wednesday defending its Ebola protocols in place when Duncan was first admitted to the hospital.

Earlier Wednesday, the nurse's union National Nurses United blasted Presbyterian, saying the hospital initially opposed isolating Duncan, placing him for hours in a room with other patients and not providing adequate protective equipment to medical staff.

"Nurses and other frontline hospital personnel must have the highest level of protective equipment, such as the Hazmat suits Emory University or the CDC themselves use while transporting patients, and hands-on training and drills for all RNs and other hospital personnel including the practice putting on and taking off the optimal equipment," union head RoseAnn DeMoro said. "The time to act is long overdue."

Vargas declined to comment on the union's allegations.

"I don't think we have a systemic, institutional problem," he said. "No one wants to get this right more than our hospital."

Before dawn, a Dallas Fire-Rescue Hazmat team was decontaminating common areas in the east Dallas apartment complex of the second health care worker, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said.

"The only way we can beat this is person-by-person, moment-by-moment, detail-by-detail," Rawlings said. "We rallied together and decided that we needed to move quickly, like we did Sunday morning,"

Police will knock on doors throughout the day to inform neighbors. Reverse 911 calls began at 6:15 a.m., and state officials have hired a company to decontaminate the health care worker's car and apartment.

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