Ebola monitoring for health workers

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Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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US health officials are intensifying the monitoring of hospital workers who provided care to the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in America after one of them was infected with the virus despite wearing protective gear.

Tests confirmed the first known case of Ebola transmitted in the US, raising questions about assurances by health officials that the disease will be contained and any American hospital should be able to treat it.

Dr Tom Frieden, head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said there had been a breach of protocol that led the worker to become infected while treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan, but officials are not sure what occurred.

Mr Duncan, who travelled from Liberia to visit family, did not get sick until he arrived in the US. He died on Wednesday.

The worker, who has not been identified, has not been able to point to how the breach might have occurred.

US president Barack Obama asked the CDC to quickly investigate the incident, the White House said.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was asked on ABC’s Good Morning America if federal health authorities should consider requiring that Ebola patients be sent only to highly specialised “containment” hospitals.

“That is something that should be seriously considered,” Dr Fauci said.

Dallas police barred entry to the health care worker’s apartment complex on Sunday.

Officers also knocked on doors, made automated phone calls and passed out leaflets to notify people within a four-block radius about the situation, although Dallas authorities assured residents the risk was confined to those who have had close contact with the two Ebola patients.

The worker wore a gown, gloves, mask and shield while she cared for Duncan during his second visit to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, said Dr Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which runs the hospital.

Mr Duncan, who arrived in the US from Liberia on September 20, first sought medical care for fever and abdominal pain Sept. 25. He told a nurse he had traveled from Africa, but he was sent home. He returned September 28 and was placed in isolation because of suspected Ebola.

Liberia is one of the three West African countries most affected by the Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 4,000 people, according to World Health Organisation figures. The others are Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Texas health officials have been closely monitoring nearly 50 people who had or may have had close contact with Mr Duncan after he started showing symptoms but before he was diagnosed with the disease.

The health care worker reported a fever on Friday night as part of a self-monitoring regimen required by the CDC, Dr Varga said.

Another person described as a “close contact” of the health worker has been proactively placed in isolation, he added, without saying where. The hospital said its emergency department is diverting ambulances to other hospitals, though is still accepting walk-in patients.

Among the things the CDC will investigate is how the workers took off protective gear, because removing it incorrectly can lead to contamination. Investigators will also look at dialysis and intubation – the insertion of a breathing tube in a patient’s airway. Both procedures have the potential to spread the virus.

Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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