Dallas Nurse's Ebola Diagnosis Raises Concern

President Obama was briefed Sunday by HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and ordered federal authorities to take immediate additional steps to ensure hospitals and health care providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient.

A nurse who was involved in treating Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas showed positive for the virus in a preliminary blood test late Saturday, Dr. Dan Varga, Texas Health Resources' chief clinical officer, said in a statement posted Sunday by the health care organization. He said the nurse had been under the self-monitoring regimen specified by CDC; it requires the individuals to take their temperature twice a day. The nurse notified the hospital "and was immediately admitted to the hospital in isolation" and is in stable condition, Varga's statement said.

"A close contact has also been proactively placed in isolation. The care-giver and the family have requested total privacy, so we can’t discuss any further details of the situation," it stated. "We have known that further cases of Ebola are a possibility among those who were in contact with Mr. Duncan before he passed away last week. The system of monitoring, quarantine and isolation was established to protect those who cared for Mr. Duncan as well as the community at large by identifying any potential ebola cases as early as possible and getting those individuals into treatment immediately. Finally, we have put the ED on 'diversion' until further notice because of limitations in staffed capacity — meaning ambulances are not currently bringing patients to our emergency department. While we are on diversion we are also using this time to further expand the margin of safety by triple-checking our full compliance with updated CDC guidelines. We are also continuing to monitor all staff who had some relation to Mr. Duncan's care even if they are not assumed to be at significant risk of infection.

"All of these steps are being taken so the public and our own employees can have complete confidence in the safety and integrity of our facilities and the care we provide."

President Obama was briefed on this second U.S. Ebola case by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, and he later spoke with Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, who updated him on the response to the diagnosis. According to a release posted on the White House website, the president during the conversation directed that:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's investigation into the apparent breach in infection control protocols at the Dallas hospital move as expeditiously as possible
  • The additional officers CDC has dispatched to Dallas work closely with state and local authorities as well as hospital staff to review infection control procedures and the use of personal protective equipment
  • Lessons learned from that inquiry are shared quickly and broadly
  • Federal authorities take immediate additional steps to ensure hospitals and health care providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient.
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