A second caregiver at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has tested positive for Ebola, marking the second domestic U.S. transmission of the hemorrhagic fever virus that has killed more than 4,400 people in West Africa since April.
CNN reports that the the health care worker, a woman who lives alone, was tested Tuesday night and that the test came back positive after midnight. Like nurse Nina Pham, who was diagnosed last week, the worker was taking care of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who died of Ebola at the Dallas hospital last week.
Centers for Disease Control officials initially claimed that Pham had breached an undefined “protocol,” but there is no evidence that either Pham or the second infected worker failed to follow any requirements. Public health officials and prominent Democrats have come under fire for downplaying or misrepresenting the threats faced by both health care workers and the public.
— Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) October 15, 2014
The hospital’s procedures have, however, come under heavy scrutiny.
Nurses at the hospital were advised to patch holes in their protective gear with medical tape while caring for Duncan, who was suffering from explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting, National Nurses United representative Deborah Burger told Associated Press. Duncan was reportedly left in an open area of the hospital’s emergency room for hours during his second admission. (He had previously been sent home despite registering a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit.) Workers at the hospital report frequently changing and unclear protocols. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who is responsible for local response to the outbreak, says 48 other people are being watched after having had contact with Duncan, and he suggested there may be further infections.
The hospital at the center of the U.S. Ebola outbreak, meanwhile, remains operational. Requests for comment from Texas Health Presbyterian were sent to a media representative with a full voicemail box. But a receptionist tells National Review Online the hospital is open for all business. Texas Health Presbyterian provides a full battery of medical services including surgery and emergency care as well as heart, cancer and neuroscience treatments. More than 5,000 babies per year — a rate of about 14 newborns daily — are delivered at the hospital’s Margo Perot Center.
Update: Several commenters note that the infected nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, also traveled on a commercial airline plane Monday, one day before she was diagnosed. Vinson flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth, and according to CBS the plane made five more flights before being taken out of service.