Second Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

Wednesday, October 15th 2014, 5:52 am
By: News 9

A second worker at the Texas hospital where a Liberian man died of Ebola has tested positive for the disease, the Centers for Disease control and prevention said early Wednesday morning.

The agency said the positive result was returned from preliminary test, and that "confirmation testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's laboratory is being done."

"A second healthcare worker at Texas Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for the index patient has tested positive for Ebola according to preliminary tests performed overnight by the Texas Department of State Health Services' laboratory," said the agency in a statement.

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed in a separate statement that the health worker did provide care to Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who died at Presbyterian on Oct. 8. It was not immediately clear what contact the new case had with Duncan.

The state health agency said the new patient had been interviewed, "to quickly identify any contacts or potential exposures, and those people will be monitored. The type of monitoring depends on the nature of their interactions and the potential they were exposed to the virus."

Nurse Nina Pham, the first person to contract Ebola on U.S. soil, also got the disease while caring for Duncan. She repeatedly visited his room from the day he was admitted to the intensive care unit until the day before he died, medical records show.

Pham and other health care workers wore protective gear, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields -- and sometimes full-body suits -- when caring for Duncan, but confirmation of the new case came a day after a national nurses union decried an absence of protocols at the Texas hospital.

Leaders of the National Nurses Union read a statement Tuesday which they said represented concerns from a number of nurses that work at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas. The union officials declined to identify the Dallas nurses or say how many were participating in the statement.

But they were vociferous in citing a lack of protocols on the day Duncan was admitted with extreme symptoms of Ebola.

Among the flaws cited by the group included:

  • insufficient garb worn by the emergency personnel
  • the fact that Duncan was left "for hours" in a non-quarantined zone
  • that his lab samples were sent in the same way that normal specimens are sent
  • hospital official allowed nurses involved with Duncan to take care of other patients
  • other ways in which the hospital did not immediately react to the situation.

"Were protocols breached?" said union spokeswoman Rose Ann DeMoro, "There were no protocols."

"These nurses are not well protected. They're not prepared to handle Ebola or any other pandemic," said DeMoro. "We are deeply alarmed."

DeMoro said the nurses who had come forward were afraid to reveal their identities "because of a culture of threat in the hospitals."

Tuesday night, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital issued a statement in response to the nurses' charges, saying, "patient and employee safety is our greatest priority and we take compliance very seriously."

The hospital insisted that "numerous measures" were 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."

But also on Tuesday, the nation's top disease-fighting agency acknowledged that federal health experts failed to do all they should have done to prevent Ebola from spreading in Dallas when and after Duncan was admitted.

Agency Director Tom Frieden outlined a series of steps designed to stop the spread of the disease in the U.S., including increased training for health care workers and changes at the Texas Health Presbyterian to minimize the risk of more infections.

A total of 76 people at the hospital might have had exposure to Duncan, and all of them were being monitored for fever and other symptoms daily, Frieden said. It wasn't immediately confirmed that the new case was one of the 76 people being monitored.