CDC confirms healthcare worker who provided care for first patient has tested positive for Ebola

Oct. 13, 2014

In a media statement released yesterday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed test results reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services’ public health laboratory showing that a healthcare worker at Texas Presbyterian Hospital is positive for Ebola. The healthcare worker, a nurse, provided care for the late Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who became ill in the United States late last month. She thus becomes the first person to contract the disease within the U.S.

On Friday, October 10, the nurse, who had been self-monitoring for fever and symptoms as instructed, reported a low-grade fever and was referred for testing. As a precaution, after identification of fever, she was isolated, and CDC staff interviewed her to determine additional contacts or potential exposures. The patient was isolated soon after symptoms appeared and remains so as she undergoes treatment. She is reportedly in stable condition.

The CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services are expressing confidence 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 Duncan, and immediate isolations if symptoms develop. CDC officials note that careful monitoring of all healthcare workers who had interaction with Duncan and this second patient is warranted, including those who cared for Duncan between the time he was isolated in the hospital September 28 and his death on October 8. They will now be considered patient contacts for follow-up monitoring.

Many have questioned how the nurse became infected even though she wore the appropriate protective gear throughout her care for Duncan; CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, has said only that “there was a breach in protocol” at some point. Some commentators are speculating—and it is only speculation—that she may not have removed the protective gear carefully enough, and been infected when body fluids thereby came into contact with her skin. Learn more about Ebola from the CDC.

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