With a second Texas health-care worker testing positive for Ebola, hospital protocol and preparedness are being questioned. WSJ's Betsy McKay and Michael Casey discuss. Photo: Getty
DALLAS—Political leaders warned Wednesday that there could be more cases of Ebola here in coming days, after a second health-care worker at a Texas hospital tested positive for the virus.
The worker, a woman whose name wasn’t disclosed, “reported a fever Tuesday and was immediately isolated at the hospital,” the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement.
She was among those who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was diagnosed with Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Sept. 30, anddied last Wednesday.
Another nurse who treated Mr. Duncan, Nina Pham, 26 years old,was also infected while caring for Mr. Duncanand is now being treated at the hospital, which said Tuesday that she was in good condition. Health officials and the hospital haven’t determined how she became infected, and have said she was wearing a mask, gown, shield and gloves when treating Mr. Duncan.
Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, speaks at a news conference Wednesday as Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings looks on at right.Associated Press
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Dallas leaders sought to play down public fears about the spread of Ebola in the nation’s ninth-largest city, noting that all transmissions of the disease so far have been limited to health-care workers at the one Dallas hospital. But they acknowledged that more cases were now likely.
“It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said.
Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer for the hospital’s parent company, Texas Health Resources, said that like Ms. Pham, the second health-care worker was isolated within minutes and faced a better prognosis than Mr. Duncan thanks to the early diagnosis.
He acknowledged that the second diagnosis showed something had gone wrong with the hospital’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. “It is clear that there was an exposure, sometime, somewhere,” Dr. Varga said.
However, he defended the hospital’s ability to contain Ebola. “I don’t think we have a systematic institutional problem,” he said.
A second health-care worker at a Texas hospital who provided treatment for the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. has tested positive for the virus, state workers said. Photo: Getty Images
In addition to the two workers who have now tested positive for Ebola, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring 75 additional workers at the hospital who were also involved in the treatment of Mr. Duncan for potential Ebola exposure.
The workers are in addition to 48people who were already being monitoredbecause they were in contact with Mr. Duncan, or with people who themselves had been in close contact with the Liberian man before he was admitted to the hospital Sept. 28.
While preliminary tests in Texas found that the second worker had Ebola, testing on a separate specimen from the patient will be conducted by the CDC in Atlanta to confirm the person has the virus, the state said.
The CDC said in a statement Wednesday morning that it has “interviewed the patient to identify any contacts or potential exposures in the community.”
“As we have said before, because of our ongoing investigation, it is not unexpected that there would be additional exposures,” the CDC said.
CDC Director Tom Frieden said Tuesday that the CDC was making changes to its Ebola response efforts, including dispatching an infection-control team to any U.S. hospital with a confirmed case “within hours,” and conceded that such a measure might have prevented Ms. Pham from contracting the virus.
In addition, the CDC said Tuesday that it was making specific changes at the Dallas hospital to better assist hospital workers. A site manager will monitor workers at every step of caring for an infected patient, especially the donning and removal of gloves, masks and other protective gear. Two nurses at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta who treated Ebola patients are on the ground in Dallas to train and assist hospital staff, Dr. Frieden said. And measures will be taken to limit the size of the team caring for Ebola patients in Dallas, to allow a smaller group of employees to gain experience and comfort working in an isolation unit, he said.
Emergency service workers prepare to decontaminate the apartment of the second health-care worker in the U.S. to have tested positive for Ebola.Twitter/Dallas Police Department
By dawn Wednesday morning, Dallas police and other officials were walking the neighborhood of the newest health-care worker to contract Ebola, preparing to decontaminate her apartment and letting neighbors know that someone living near them had tested positive for the virus. The second worker lives alone in the apartment and has no pets, according to local news reports.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s top elected official, pleaded Wednesday for people to support the hospital’s health-care workers, who are now anxious about the possibility that they too will contract Ebola.
“Like Nina Pham, this is a heroic person,” Judge Jenkins said of the newest worker diagnosed with Ebola, adding, “I hope this community will rally around the human beings that are suffering.”