Second Healthcare Worker Tests Positive for Ebola

[Content Note: Illness.]

A second healthcare worker who was part of team caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian traveler who died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital last week, has tested positive for the Ebola virus, Texas state and federal health officials confirmed this morning.
The worker reported a fever on Tuesday and was immediately isolated at the hospital.

"Within 90 minutes of taking her temperature, she was in isolation," Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County's chief executive, said Wednesday morning at a news conference.

Preliminary tests were performed late Tuesday by the laboratory for the Texas Department of State Health Services in Austin, and the results were received about midnight. Additional tests to confirm the positive reading were being done by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Officials interviewed the worker to identify anyone else who might have been exposed, the state health department said in a statement, but it was unclear whether any others were being monitored.

...A second case of Ebola among the nearly 100 doctors, nurses and assistants who helped treat Mr. Duncan for 10 days at Presbyterian was not unexpected. For days, federal health officials have warned that, in addition to the nurse who was confirmed to have Ebola on Sunday, other cases were likely.

"It might get worse before it gets better, but it will get better," [Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings] said. "The only way we are going to beat this is moment by moment, person by person, detail by detail."
A key part of preventing infections moving forward is putting in place protocols that were allegedly not in place during Duncan's treatment.
A Liberian Ebola patient was left in an open area of a Dallas emergency room for hours, and the nurses treating him worked for days without proper protective gear and faced constantly changing protocols, according to a statement released late Tuesday by the largest U.S. nurses' union.

Nurses were forced to use medical tape to secure openings in their flimsy garments, worried that their necks and heads were exposed as they cared for a patient with explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting, said Deborah Burger of National Nurses United.

...The nurses alleged that:

— Duncan was kept in a non-isolated area of the emergency department for several hours, potentially exposing up to seven other patients to Ebola;

— Patients who may have been exposed to Duncan were kept in isolation only for a day before being moved to areas where there were other patients;

— Nurses treating Duncan were also caring for other patients in the hospital;

— Preparation for Ebola at the hospital amounted to little more than an optional seminar for staff;

— In the face of constantly shifting guidelines, nurses were allowed to follow whichever ones they chose.

"There was no advance preparedness on what to do with the patient, there was no protocol, there was no system," Burger said.
The bad news is that there still isn't a solid system with proper supplies in place. The good news is that there will be, and that the contamination was the result of a lack of preparedness, which can be fixed, and not because the virus has evolved to transmit in new ways.

In the meantime, the infected nurses will (one hopes) be getting the best treatment possible, so that they may survive this horrible virus.

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