As the media buzzed with news that a nurse who was treating Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas hospital caught the Ebola virus from him, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Thomas Frieden stepped up the tone of his comments on the disease, saying even a single infection is “unacceptable.”
“We have to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control,” Frieden said at a news conference Monday, “because even a single infection is unacceptable.”
Though officials have tried to relay the impression that the American response to the appearance of the disease has been competent, they now have to contend with the reality that a nurse treating Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital somehow contracted the disease before Duncan died last week — even though they don’t know how it happened.
The matter has drawn the elevated attention of President Barack Obama, who called top administration officials to the White House on Monday to find out how prepared the national health system is to deal with Ebola, according to media reports.
Frieden confronted the growing alarm sweeping the nation by calling on hospitals to be vigilant about dealing with patients who have recently come from West Africa and have a fever.
“If they have a fever, ask where they have been in the past 21 days,” Frieden said.
Frieden said the nurse who caught the disease from Duncan, the first known transmission of the disease within the U.S., was “clinically stable.” The nurse has been identified as Nina Pham, 26, who graduated from Texas Christian University’s nursing program in 2010, according to published reports.
Frieden added that he wouldn’t be surprised if another hospital worker who cared for the patient became ill — though a second health worker who had contact with the nurse was in isolation and has “no symptoms of Ebola” and has “no fever,” Frieden said.
Ebola patients become more contagious as the disease progresses.
Frieden said a “detailed investigation” was being conducted to figure out how the nurse contracted the disease, since officials believe proper protocols were followed. He said officials were considering using protective equipment that is easier to put on and take off — though it’s not clear if that had anything to do with the nurse contracting Ebola.
“We need to consider the possibility that there could be additional cases, particularly among the health care workers who cared for the index patient when he was so ill,” Frieden said, using the term CDC officials are using for Duncan.