Cleveland safety net system Metro Health and the Cleveland Clinic said that several of their nurses and other employees were among the passengers and have been placed on paid leave while they're monitored for symptoms. Local news reports suggest they were returning from a conference in Dallas.
Frieden said that the nurse should not have flown on a commercial flight because CDC guidelines call for controlled movement for people under observation. She was one of about 50 workers who helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola at the hospital Oct. 8. Another Texas Health Presbyterian nurse, Nina Pham, tested positive for Ebola on Sunday. Officials said she remains sick but is considered clinically stable.
Vinson was self-monitoring for possible Ebola symptoms because at that point Pham had not developed Ebola. CDC spokesman David Daigle told the AP that Vinson spoke with a CDC official and received permission to fly before she boarded the plane.
She did have a fever of 99.5 degrees at the time she flew to Dallas-Fort Worth, but that's below the level considered a sign of Ebola, Frieden said.
“We will, from this moment forward, ensure that no other individual who is being monitored for exposure undergoes travel, other than controlled movement,” Frieden said.
Crew members on the flight told the CDC that the nurse on the plane exhibited no symptoms of Ebola during the flight. Frontier Airlines, which is based in Denver, said in a statement that it immediately removed the aircraft from service after the company was notified by the CDC at 1 a.m. MDT Wednesday.
After the plane landed in Dallas on Monday, the airline said, it was cleaned per normal procedures consistent with CDC guidelines, and was cleaned again Tuesday evening, before Frontier was notified that the nurse was on the flight. The airline also noted that the nurse also flew the same route on Frontier Flight 1142 on Oct. 10. It is not clear whether passengers on that flight will be interviewed as well. Health officials believe people infected with Ebola are not contagious until they show symptoms.
Frieden and Burwell for the first time gave some indication of how Texas Health Presbyterian workers may have become infected with Ebola while treating Duncan. Some workers were using three and four layers of personal protective equipment, or PPE, perhaps thinking that would afford them more protection, he said. The opposite can be true, Frieden explained, because removing each layer of gloves increases the risk of exposure. “What we have always emphasized is that healthcare workers using familiar PPE in familiar ways are more likely to do it right,” he said.
Two nurses from Emory now have gone to Dallas to do peer-to-peer training, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said during the news conference with Frieden.
Texas Health Presbyterian said late Wednesday that it would accommodate any workers who want to stay overnight to avoid “even the remote possibility of any potential exposure” to friend, family and the public. Employees who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient to die in the U.S., will be provided with a separate room.
“We are doing this for our employees' peace of mind and comfort,” the hospital said. “This is not a medical recommendation.” The hospital also admonished "potentially affected employees to be the good citizens we know they are" and avoid public transportation and any activity that could put others at risk.
Burwell confirmed HHS is talking to specialized hospitals around the country about their ability to handle Ebola patients if necessary. Some have called for designated Ebola hospitals in each state. New York City already has named its Bellevue Hospital Center as an Ebola treatment center.
Passengers who may have traveled on the Oct. 13 Frontier flight from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth are being asked to contact the CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO.
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