The deadly Ebola virus that killed Thomas Duncan recently at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has spread to one of his caregivers. Reporting a fever Friday, the worker is being screened for testing and has been isolated. This is the first case of the Ebola virus spreading on American soil.
Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Dr. David Lakey, said that they have been preparing for the possibility of the virus spreading. The Dallas team is adding more caregivers and working diligently to prevent any further spread.
Those who have had contact with the caregiver are being monitored predicated on their type of interaction with the worker. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from Atlanta is conducting further tests.
The CDC is saying that protocols were breached resulting in the infection. The CDC is also concerned that all possible precautions were supposed to have been taken to prevent this very type of occurrence. Others that have come in contact with Duncan still have another week of quarantine before they can be released to resume their normal lives. Health care workers who had contact with Duncan are being identified.
The CDC is concerned that this worker was infected despite wearing full protective gear that included a protective gown, a mask and gloves and shield while treating Duncan. Of major concern is that other workers may have been infected as well. All workers are being monitored closely. The CDC is also suggesting that caregivers for Ebola patients be kept to a minimum.
This reported case came just hours after a screening program was enacted at New York JFK International Airport. The screening includes taking temperatures of arriving passengers from West Africa. The process will be implemented in four additional airports and will add additional protection against the spread of the disease. Thomas Duncan arrived from West Africa before screening had been implemented.
Travelers are already being checked when leaving West Africa, sometimes on multiple occasions. According to Dr. Martin Cetron, from the Division Of Global Migration and Quarantine, regardless of the number of checks put in place, it is extremely difficult to reduce the risk factor to zero.
Airports in New Jersey, Washington Dulles, Chicago and Atlanta will all implement screening procedures for incoming West Africa travelers beginning next week. It is approximated that about 150 people enter the U.S. from West Africa daily and almost 95 percent enter the country through these five locations.
The process includes checking temperatures with no-touch thermometers of passengers upon entry. Should an elevated temperature be present, an interview is conducted to determine whether that person had any contact with Ebola stricken individuals. All of the airports have quarantine areas should the necessity arrive.
In further developments, NBC News, whose worker had contracted the disease, violated its agreement with the New Jersey Health Department. The crew had initially agreed to remain in voluntary quarantine for 21 days, but violated that agreement. They have now been ordered to remain in quarantine by the health department. It is not known how many members violated this agreement.
With the continued spread of Ebola worldwide, a cure is becoming more urgent. ZMapp is still in extremely short supply. The virus has now escaped the African continent with reported cases in Spain and Texas. Health care workers are working feverishly to contain the virus until a vaccine can be distributed.
By Hans Benes
Image Courtesy of European Commission DG – License