DALLAS (CBSNewYork/AP) — Following the diagnosis of Ebola in a second Dallas hospital worker, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday the government’s monitoring of the virus must be “much more aggressive.”
Obama said federal health teams must respond to future cases within 24 hours, adding that the second confirmed case within the country highlights the need to ramp up efforts to confront the disease that has struck West Africa and has reached U.S. shores.
The president spoke following a meeting with top Cabinet officials involved in the Ebola response.
Obama called the meeting after cancelling planned political appearances in the Tri-State area Wednesday.
Obama had planned to speak at a fundraiser for Senate Democrats in Union, New Jersey, and then headline a rally for Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.
Officials identified the second Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital worker who tested positive for Ebola as 29-year-old Amber Vinson, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Vinson flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Monday, just one day before she reported symptoms.
The airplane’s crew said she had no symptoms of Ebola during the flight. But the next morning she developed a fever and on Tuesday night tested positive for Ebola.
Infected Ebola patients are not considered contagious until they have symptoms.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said even though Vinson showed no symptoms, she shouldn’t have boarded a flight.
“She should not have traveled on a commercial airline,” he said. “The CDC guidance in this setting outlines the need for what it called ‘controlled movement.’ That can include a charter plane, that can include a car, but it does not include public transport.”
Vinson had flown to Cleveland on Friday. Health officials did not immediately release the reason for her trip or where she visited in the Cleveland area.
The flight landed in Dallas at 8:16 p.m. Monday, stayed there overnight and underwent a thorough cleaning before returning to service the next day. The cleaning was consistent with CDC guidelines, according to a Frontier Airlines statement released by CDC officials.
“Frontier responded immediately upon notification from the CDC by removing the aircraft from service and is working closely with CDC to identify and contact customers who may [have] traveled on flight 1143,” the airline said in a statement.
The CDC is now asking all 132 passengers who were on board the flight to call 1 800-CDC INFO.
“Because the risk is so low, we think there is an extremely low likelihood that anyone who traveled on this plane would have been exposed, but we’re putting into place extra margins of safety and that’s why we are contacting everyone who was on that flight,” Frieden said.
It’s not clear how Vinson contracted the virus, but she was part of the team who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed with Ebola after coming to the U.S. from Liberia, Brennan reported. Duncan died on Oct. 8.
Vinson was monitoring herself for symptoms, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. After she reported a fever Tuesday, she was in isolation within 90 minutes, Jenkins said.
Vinson was being flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Wednesday evening, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.
Emory University Hospital is one of four hospitals with specialized isolation units to care for Ebola with less risk of spread to health care workers. Emory has treated three other Ebola patients, two of them have recovered and been released.
Frieden said the first health worker infected with Ebola, Nina Pham, is in “improved condition.”
Dallas Nurses Cite Sloppy Conditions In Ebola Care
The new case lends support to nurses’ claims this week that they have inadequate training and in some cases, protective gear, to take care of Ebola patients.
The CDC has said some breach of protocol probably sickened Pham, but National Nurses United contends the protocols were either non-existent or changed constantly after Duncan arrived in the emergency room by ambulance on Sept. 28.
Duncan’s medical records make numerous mentions of protective gear worn by hospital staff, and Pham herself notes wearing the gear in visits to Duncan’s room. But there is no indication in the records of her first encounter with Duncan, on Sept. 29, that Pham donned any protective gear.
Pham was in Duncan’s room often, from the day he was placed in intensive care until the day before he died.
Based on statements from nurses it did not identify, the union described how Duncan was left in an open area of the emergency room for hours. It said staff treated Duncan for days without the correct protective gear, that hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling and safety protocols constantly changed.
“They’re not prepared” for what they are being asked to do, said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, a union with 185,000 members.
DeMoro refused to say how many nurses made the statement about Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, but insisted they were in a position to know what happened.
Wendell Watson, a Presbyterian spokesman, did not respond to specific claims by the nurses but said the hospital has not received similar complaints.
“Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority, and we take compliance very seriously,” he said in a statement. He said the hospital would “review and respond to any concerns raised by our nurses and all employees.”
In New York, Lisa Baum, who is in charge of health and safety for the New York State Nurses Association, also voiced concerns. She said earlier this week that 200 hospitals where members work are also being asked to prove that they can handle the disease.
“We are requesting a written protocol that includes information on triage procedures, personal protection equipment for staff, training, waste handling,” she said Monday.
Baum said she believes some hospitals are more ready than others.
“We are in the process of trying to get all of the information from all of the hospitals to make sure that they are adequately prepared,” she said.
New York City Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett said Tuesday that health care workers can safely take care of Ebola patients, but they must be trained.
“Infection control procedures work. Health care workers can safely take care of patients when they are trained and equipped to do so,” she said. “They need to be equipped, and they need to be trained and trained so they meticulously adhere to the infection control standards.”
She said New York City is ready to handle any potential cases and said so far, there have been no confirmed cases of the disease here.
CDC Says It Missed Opportunities To Contain Ebola
Frieden has acknowledged that the government wasn’t aggressive enough in managing Ebola and containing the virus at the Dallas hospital.
“We could’ve sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from day one about exactly how this should be managed,” he said Tuesday.
Frieden outlined new steps this week designed to stop the spread of the disease, including the creation of an Ebola response team, increased training for health care workers nationwide and changes at the Texas hospital to minimize the risk of more infections.
“I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient, the first patient, was diagnosed. That might have prevented this infection,” Frieden said.
Frieden said some of the world’s leading experts on how to treat Ebola and protect health care workers are in the new response team. They will review issues including how isolation rooms are laid out, what protective equipment health workers use, waste management and decontamination.
A total of 76 people at the hospital might have been exposed to Duncan, and all are being monitored for fever and other symptoms daily, Frieden said.
Health officials are monitoring 48 others who had some contact with Duncan before he was admitted the hospital where he died.
Among the changes announced Tuesday by Frieden was a plan to limit the number of health care workers who care for Ebola patients so they “can become more familiar and more systematic in how they put on and take off protective equipment, and they can become more comfortable in a healthy way with providing care in the isolation unit.”
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