Latest US Ebola Case Traveled by Air Before Reporting Symptoms

Davy James, Associate Editor

A second health care worker who tested positive for the Ebola virus traveled by air the day before her symptoms appeared.

A second health care worker who tested positive for the Ebola virus traveled by air the day before her symptoms appeared.

Earlier today, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that an additional health care worker who provided care for Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Presbyterian Hospital tested positive for Ebola following preliminary tests performed overnight by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The CDC later divulged that the health care worker had traveled from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 on October 13, the day before she reported symptoms.

Due to the proximity in time between the flight and her first report of the illness the following morning, the CDC is reaching out to passengers from the flight to assess potential exposure. However, the health care worker did not exhibit any symptoms at the time of the flight.

Earlier this week, a 26-year-old nurse tested positive for the virus after caring for Duncan, who died from the Ebola virus on October 8, 2014, after traveling to Texas from Liberia.

CDC officials are now working to identify and isolate potential contacts connected to both health care workers, with 75 people now being tracked for possible exposure.

“While this is troubling news for the patient, the patient’s family and colleagues, and the greater Dallas community, the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services remain confident that wider spread in the community can be prevented with proper public health measures, including ongoing contact tracing, health monitoring among those known to have been in contact with the index patient, and immediate isolations if symptoms develop,” the CDC said in a press release.

The second patient was being monitored for symptoms of the virus and was isolated within 90 minutes of reporting a fever. The CDC reiterated that additional exposures were not unexpected.

As a result, city workers handed out flyers in the neighborhood where the second worker lives asking residents to be cognizant of possible symptoms.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told ABC News that it remains unclear how the hospital workers became infected.

"Those are people that came in contact because we don't understand exactly how the breach in protocol occurred," Burwell told ABC News. "We are taking the precaution of making sure that anyone within that treatment phase will be tracked and monitored in a more serious way."

With heightened concerns regarding a potential Ebola outbreak in America, the CDC yesterday announced enhanced infection control practices that will be established at US hospitals. For instance, a team of 16 experts in various aspects of viral infection control were sent to Dallas to train and assist hospital personnel in containment efforts.

Incorporated in the team are personnel who successfully controlled prior Ebola outbreaks in Africa over the last 2 decades, including in health care settings.

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.

New protocols for hospitals include a site manager to oversee various aspects of infection control, such as making sure personal protective equipment is put on and taken off correctly.

In a conference call with the media yesterday, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said steps will be taken to ensure every hospital in the country is ready to diagnose Ebola, calling a single infection in a health care worker unacceptable.

“We know how to stop Ebola. We know that care has been provided in hospitals throughout Africa without infections. But, we know it's hard,” Dr. Frieden said during the call. “We know that a single breach can cause an infection. We know a single slip can cause an infection. That's why we're looking at every aspect of the procedures so we can make them safer, and we're empowering health care workers with information, because when you're concerned about something, when you're worried about it, I find it's always helpful to get more information about it so you can understand it more fully.”