The second Texas nurse to be infected with Ebola by a patient may have had symptoms of the deadly virus when she flew on a commercial airliner with 132 other passengers on Monday from Cleveland to Dallas, officials said Thursday.
That revelation led Frontier Airlines to put six crew members on paid leave out of an “abundance of caution,” the airline said.
It was also revealed Thursday that 13 nurses from Ohio were on an earlier flight with the infected nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, when she flew on the same airline last Friday to Cleveland from Dallas to prepare for her wedding.
The other nurses, from the Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth Medical Center, are all now on paid leave as a result.
Ebola patients are contagious if they are showing symptoms of the virus, which is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids. However, officials have noted repeatedly that the virus is not easily transmitted.
A middle school and an elementary school in Ohio were closed Thursday after officials learned a staff member at those schools may have traveled on the same plane—but not the same flight—as Vinson on Tuesday, officials said. Three people who had contact with Vinson during her trip to Ohio also are being monitored for signs of Ebola.
The Centers for Disease Control had already asked passengers who were aboard the same flight Monday with Vinson to contact the agency for possible monitoring for the virus. CDC officials said Vinson only began showing a fever on Tuesday morning, and was isolated in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital within 90 minutes of reporting her condition.
Frontier plane out of service
Frontier Airlines CEO David Siegel, in an email to airline employees, said that Frontier was later “notified by CDC that the passenger [Vinson] may have been symptomatic earlier than initially suspected; including the possibility of possessing symptoms while onboard the flight.”
Read More Ebola nurse may have had symptoms early
Siegel said that because of that disclosure, the airlines is keeping the plane out of service, and is flying it back to Cleveland from Denver, without customers.
Vinson and Nina Pham, another nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian, became sick in the past week from Ebola after having cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died in the hospital on Oct. 8 from the virus.
Vinson was flown on Wednesday from Dallas to Atlanta, where she is being treated at Emory University Hospital, the same facility that is currently treating another Ebola patient, and which previously treated two Americans who have since recovered from the disease.
According to a federal government official with direct knowledge of the plans, Pham is expected to be transported from Dallas to NIH’s isolation unit in Maryland. That move could happen later Thursday. However, the official cautions that this is a very fluid situation and plans are evolving.
Vinson’s mother, who has been in Dallas since Oct. 14, is in voluntary quarantine in Dallas, a county official said. She currently has no symptoms but is being monitored.
Nurse describes mass confusion
The Texas hospital has been under scathing criticism for initially having not admitted Duncan for treatment when he first appeared there on Sept. 25, and for allegedly having insufficient protocols to protect health-care workers in dealing with him once he was admitted three days later.
Brianne Aguirre, a friend and co-worker of Pham’s, told NBC’s Today Show on Thursday that she and more than 100 other workers there were not given special instructions for dealing with potential Ebola patients and that Duncan was initially put into an area at the hospital with “up to seven other patients.” Aguirre described mass confusion over procedures for dealing with Duncan, including how to handle his lab work, and a failure to discuss Ebola as an issue for concern prior to his arrival.
“I watched them violate basic principles of nursing,” Aguirre said. “I would try anything and everything to refuse to go there to be treated. I would feel at risk by going there.”
Texas Health Presbyterian, in a statement, said, “Our hospital followed the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and sought additional guidance and clarity” while treating Duncan.
In Madrid, Spain’s health ministry said it was investigating a possible case of Ebola aboard an Air France flight.
Dallas County Commissioner were set to vote Thursday on the question of declaring a local state of disaster because of Ebola.
In Sierra Leone, one of three West African countries that are at the center of the current Ebola outbreak, the last district in the country that had remained untouched by the virus reported two Ebola cases, officials said. There were 425 new cases reported in Sierra Leone in the past week.
Months before outbreak stopped
The World Health Organization said Thursday the worldwide death toll will soon pass 4,500 people, which includes 236 health workers.
International health officials warned earlier this week that Ebola could end up infecting 10,000 people per week by December in West Africa at its current rate of progression, unless efforts to contain the disease are ramped up.
“It will take months before this outbreak is stopped,” Dr. Isabelle Nuttall, director of Global Capacities, Alert and Response, told reporters in Geneva.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said President Barack Obama should “absolutely consider” a travel ban from countries afflicted by Ebola. So far, the Obama administration has resisted calls for a travel ban, saying it would hurt efforts by medical workers to contain the disease in the affected countries, which they say is the best way to prevent further cases in the U.S. and Europe.
However, four airports on Thursday were set to join New York’s JFK Airport in taking the temperatures of passengers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to screen them for Ebola. The airports are inWashington, Chicago, Atlanta and Newark, N.J.
In Washington, D.C., CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden is scheduled to testify before Congress to answer question about how his agency and local officials handled the outbreak in Dallas. Frieden will be joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Health.
Obama on Thursday was briefed by his cabinets about the response so far. Obama later said, “the dangers of a serious outbreak in this country are extraordinarily low, but we are taking this very seriously.”