Ebola Today: Mass. Lawmakers to Hold Public Hearing on Ebola Response

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
A file photo showing the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Another health care worker at the Texas hospital who treated the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the US has tested positive for the disease, the Texas Department of State Health Services said 15 October 2014. –EPA

• 5:53 a.m. EST: Mass. Legislature to hold Ebola-readiness hearing. The Legislature’s Public Health Committee will hold a 10 a.m. public hearing Thursday to review state response plans if Ebola cases are reported. The committee invited several experts to testify, including Dr. Michael VanRooyen of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, and UMass Memorial Medical Center President Patrick Muldoon.

• Oct. 15, 8:34 p.m. EST: Dallas to declare citywide disaster. Dallas County Commissioners plan to declare a disaster Thursday over “the potential for widespread or severe damage, injury, loss or threat of life resulting from the Ebola virus,’’ Dallas’s local NBC affiliate reported. As part of the declaration, the city may restrict travel for health care workers who may have cared for the first Ebola patient.

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In the meantime, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where the initial patient with Ebola was treated, is offering a room at its facilities to any of its employees that want to “avoid even the remote possibility of any potential exposure to family, friends and the broader public,’’ the hospital said in a public statement.

• 7:43 p.m. EST: The CDC knew. Amber Joy Vinson, the 29-year-old who is the second nurse to test positive for the Ebola virus after caring for the first Ebola-stricken patient in the US, reportedly contacted the Centers for Disease Control before boarding a commercial flight Monday because she was suffering from a fever. Government officials did not advise her not to fly because she did not meet the temperature threshold of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, NBC News reports.

CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a press briefing Wednesday that, in retrospect, Vinson “should not have traveled on a commercial aircraft.’’

• 6:09 p.m. EST: Nurses respond. The nurses group National Nurses United has called on President Barack Obama to issue uniform standards for treating Ebola patients after concerns by many nurses nationwide that they do not feel adequately trained to handle Ebola cases.

• 5:44 p.m. EST: “We have to take care of them. Like they take care of us,’’ President Barack Obama said to the media about the second Ebola case diagnosed in a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Obama spoke to the media Wednesday evening after meeting with his cabinet. “We have to make sure that certain level hospitals that may not have that experience are walked through that process as carefully as possible.’’

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Obama outlined that although federal and public health officials will be “aggressively’’ making sure that all health care workers are instructed in the proper protocol for caring for a potential Ebola case, the international response is still key to containing the outbreak.

“Probably the single most important thing we can do to prevent any more serious Ebola outbreak in this country is making sure we get what is raging epidemic right now under control in west africa,’’ said President Obama. He continued to remind the public that Ebola is not an airborne illness. “I shook hands with hugged and kissed a couple of the nurses at Emory because of the valiant work they did in treating the patients. I felt perfectly safe doing so. This is not a situation in which, like a flu, that the risks of rapid spread of the disease are imminent. If we do the protocol properly and follow the steps, then the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreak in this country are very very low.’’

• 05:16 p.m. EST: On the move. Amber Joy Vinson, a 29-year-old nurse who tested positive for the Ebola virus on Tuesday, is being transferred from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, Ga. on a two-hour flight Wednesday evening.

• 04:58 p.m. EST: Meanwhile, in Atlanta. An unidentified American doctor, who contracted Ebola working for the World Health Organization in Liberia in September, is expected to be discharged soon from Emory Hospital in Atlanta, Ga. The patient was critically ill but said in a prepared statement that he is now “on the road to a full recovery.’’

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• 03:34 p.m. EST: Some good news. Nina Pham, the 26-year-old nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola on Sunday, is still doing well. Texas Health Resources (health system for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas) said in a patient status update that she’s in “good condition.’’

• 03:11 p.m. EST: Ebola patient named. The second health care worker who tested positive for Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan has been identified as Amber Joy Vinson, a 29-year-old nurse. The Associated Press reports that Duncan’s medical records show that the nurse dealt with his bodily fluids, drew blood, and inserted catheters before he died.

Vinson is a Kent State University alumni. She received degrees in 2006 and 2008, the university told the Associated Press.

• 01:02 p.m. EST: It might be time to move. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas officials are consulting with Emory Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., about the possibility of transferring the most recent Ebola patient to that facility. Two previous American patients with Ebola (Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol) were successfully treated there.

“We are sensitive to the demands being placed on our caregivers, who are working intensively to provide quality care to all patients, and we will provide new information as decisions are made,’’ said hospital spokesperson Wendell Watson in a prepared statement.

• 12:23 p.m. EST: Politics < Ebola. President Barack Obama announces that campaign travel planned for New Jersey and Connecticut today has been “postponed’’ due to Ebola. The White House press office said Obama will meet with his cabinet and speak about Ebola this afternoon.

• 11:28 a.m. EST: Double yikes. Second Ebola patient in Dallas flew the day before diagnosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday morning that the second health care worker who tested positive for the Ebola virus Tuesday flew from Cleveland to Dallas/For Worth on Frontier airlines flight number 1143 the night before her symptoms began (Oct. 13).

Health officials are asking all 132 other passengers to call 1 800-CDC-INFO. The CDC is assuring the public that the woman had no symptoms of illness on the flight, according to the flight crew. A person with Ebola is only contagious when symptomatic. The patient had a low-grade fever when she was isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas Tuesday, but because of the close proximity between the flight and her diagnosis, they are reaching out to other passengers.

• 5:35 a.m. EST: Yikes. Second health care worker contracts Ebola. The Texas Department of State Health Services announced this morning that another health care worker who treated Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has contracted the Ebola virus. There are no additional details about the patient, a woman, except that the worker was monitoring her symptoms at home and went to the hospital when a fever began. This is the second person to contract the Ebola virus on American soil. County officials said she was in isolation within 90 minutes. The CDC is conducting a test to confirm the state lab’s results this morning.

• 12:24 a.m. EST: Tape. Seriously, tape. In light of Nina Pham, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian who is the first person to contract the Ebola virus on American soil, National Nurses United (the largest nurses union in the country) released details of the alleged conditions at the Dallas hospital that may have lead to Pham contracting the virus.

– Lab samples from Thomas Eric Duncan (who died Oct. 8) traveled through the hospital’s general specimen delivery system, putting it at risk for contamination.

– Duncan potentially exposed seven other patients to Ebola when on Sept. 28 he was not isolated for several hours in the emergency department.

– The nurses who cared for Duncan also cared for other patients

– Training for Ebola was an optional seminar.

– Nurses weren’t held to a consistent set of guidelines.

– To keep “flimsy’’ garments secure, nurses had to use medical tape.

‘‘Patient and employee safety is our greatest priority and we take compliance very seriously,’’ said Wendell Watson, a hospital spokesman, in a prepared statement. ‘‘We have numerous measures in place to provide a safe working environment, including mandatory annual training and a 24/7 hotline and other mechanisms that allow for anonymous reporting.’’

• Tuesday, 3:12 p.m. EST: It’s our fault, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted yesterday that they weren’t aggressive enough managing Ebola and containing the virus at the hospital.

“I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient, the first patient, was diagnosed,’’ said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “That might have prevented this infection. But we will do that from today onward with any case, anywhere in the U.S.’’

Number of cases worldwide in the current outbreak: 8,400

Number of deaths: 4,033

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