MGH Patient Initially Tests Negative for Ebola, Positive for Malaria

This is not your typical story. This is about a close-knit group of nurses who have been friends for a long time, and of how they helped a fellow nurse, my late wife, Joanne. In 2007, Joanne was diagnosed with brain cancer and was no longer able to work or drive. This group made sure that their friend would not be alone in this battle. After each surgery, the nurses came to the house to care for their friend and kept in contact to make sure that she was getting the best treatment. Life went well until last summer, when Joanne suddenly took a turn for the worse and was given six months to live. The nurses learned that their friend was gravely ill and that hospice was coming in to provide patient care. In a whirlwind, the nurses came to the house, asking what they could do. They told me to cancel hospice bedside care because they were “taking over,’’ setting up a daily schedule where at least one of them would be there to provide direct care to their friend. Keep in mind, these nurses were either coming from work each day or giving up their lives to be there for their friend. The cancer spread and their friend lost consciousness. I saw the compassion that existed in the nurses; not only did they continue with their loving care, but each one of them engaged their friend in conversation, not knowing if she could hear them. They hugged her, cried for her, and stayed hour after hour with her. This was nursing at its finest.—Nominated by Daniel Minton
–Steven Senne

A Massachusetts General Hospital patient has initially tested negative for Ebola, but will remain in the care of medical personnel over the next few days.

During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Dr. David Hooper, chief of the MGH Infection Control Unit, said initial tests for Ebola were negative, but did test positive for Malaria. While the patient will be retested over the next few days, the changes of a positive result were low.

“We still think it’s unlikely for this patient, but by three days or so, virtually all Ebola patients should test negative,’’ he said.

The patient, who had been in Liberia in “an administrative role,’’ was never in direct contact with Ebola patients in the West African country, according to Cooper. When he returned to the US, he was checked by public health officials for indications of the illness. Clear of any symptoms, he went home and was monitored by the Boston Public Health Commission.


Passengers on the same flight as the patient and people who interacted with the patient in the airport are in no danger of infection, said Cooper.

“There’s no risk from this case to the public,’’ he said.

The patient was admitted to the hospital Tuesday afternoon and was tested for Ebola after meeting the CDC definition of a “person under investigation’’ for the infection, according to MGH Director of Emergency Preparedness Dr. Paul Biddinger.

“This definition involves the possibility of travel to where Ebola is present, the possibility of exposure to that virus, and symptoms that are consistent with that virus,’’ Biddinger said at a press conference Tuesday evening.

MGH has been planning for months to handle the possibility of a suspected Ebola case, undergoing training exercises to simulate the evaluation and management process, said Biddinger.

MGH has also been involved in testing devices that would allow them to treat Ebola cases remotely. In a recent demonstration at the Cambridge lab, researchers were able to manipulate the rate at which a ventilator provided air, slowing and speeding the breaths taken by a dummy patient.

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