CDC: Second Ebola-Infected Nurse Should Not Have Been Allowed to Travel

October 16, 2014
Davy James, Associate Editor

The second nurse to become infected with the Ebola virus after treating the index patient in Texas should not have been allowed to board a flight from Ohio earlier this week.

The second nurse to become infected with the Ebola virus after treating the index patient in Texas should not have been allowed to board a flight from Ohio earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday.

The nurse, identified as 29-year-old Amber Vinson, traveled from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 on October 13, 2014, the day before she reported symptoms.

Vinson told a CDC official that her temperature was 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is below the CDC temperature threshold of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, the nurse was “not told not to fly," according to CNN.

“The second health care worker reported no symptoms and no fever. However, because at that point she was in a group of individuals known to have exposure to Ebola, she should not have traveled on a commercial airline,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, in a conference call with the media. “The CDC guidance in this setting outlines the need for what is called controlled movement. That can include a charter plane, a car, but it does not include public transport. 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.”

Vinson, who is listed as ill yet clinically stable, was subsequently transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for additional treatment. Earlier this week, 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham tested positive for the virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the Ebola virus on October 8, 2014, after traveling to Texas from Liberia.

Pham’s condition is reportedly improving, according to the CDC.

“These 2 health care workers both worked on those days and both had extensive contact with the patient when the patient had extensive production of body fluids because of vomiting and diarrhea,” Dr. Frieden said. “Today, we are continuing to intensively assess the exposures of all other health care workers at that facility to identify how many others may have had that level of intensive contact.”

Dr. Frieden noted a high level of variability in the use of personal protective equipment by staff members who were caring for Duncan after he was diagnosed.

“By putting on more layers of gloves or other protective clothing, it becomes harder to put them on and take them off,” he noted. “The risk of contamination in the process of taking these gloves off gets much higher.”

The CDC is now tracking 75 people for possible exposure to the virus from the 3 infected patients. With concerns being raised throughout the country, the CDC earlier this week announced enhanced infection control practices to mitigate the potential spread of the virus.

In addition to sending a team of experts to Texas to set up and advise workers on safe treatment protocol, the CDC has also established a dedicated response team that can be deployed within a few hours at any hospital that receives a confirmed Ebola patient. This team provides support and training on infection control, health care safety, medical treatment, contact tracing, waste and decontamination, public education, and any other issues that may arise.

"This is not a situation in which, like a flu, the risks of a rapid spread of the disease are imminent," said US President Barack Obama at a press conference. "If we do these protocols properly, if we follow the steps, if we get the information out, then the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low."