As news spreads around the country Wednesday that a second health care worker who helped care for the late Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has now been diagnosed as contracting Ebola, herself, fresh on the heels of another nurse known around the world as the first person to contract Ebola on American soil only days ago, the investigation into 29-year-old nurse Amber Vinson is only just beginning in order to trace possible points of contamination and halt further contamination of the deadly disease.
What is known already is that the Dallas nurse traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to prepare for her wedding shortly before being diagnosed, according to officials in Cleveland. In caring for Duncan, she had inserted catheters, drew blood from him, and dealt with bodily fluids, according to the Associated Press reporting on Duncan’s medical records.
Director of the Cleveland Department of Public Health Toinette Parrilla, stated:
She flew into Cleveland to prepare for her wedding. She came in to visit her mother and her mother’s fiancé.
Kent State University offered a statement stating that Vinson had stayed at the home of her relatives while in Ohio, and that those relatives are employees of the University.
Kent State President Beverly Warren said in the university’s statement:
She did not step foot on our campus.
Sure, okay, but her Kent State employee relatives did, at least before they were sent home and asked to self-monitor themselves over the next three weeks.
Self-monitor? To absolutely stem an outbreak, doesn’t it seem that anyone who came into contact with an Ebola patient ripe with fever should perhaps be monitored by experts in a quarantined area? Why all the loose ends of having to rely on self-monitoring and transporting those who do come down with the disease? Are there not enough potential points for contamination already? While America should not and does not yet need to panic, let’s at least play it smart and safe, eh? So far, there is no confirmation whether Vinson began her fever while still in Ohio.
But this is how Ebola spreads, folks.
This is how rampant disease can get out of hand. This is not written to scare you, only to inform. It’s important to keep an eye on such issues, as the public health of the entire nation could hang in the balance. Until it does, however, it’s simply something one might want to follow a little more closely than the latest celebrity gossip. It’s something worth asking questions about. It matters; it’s important, but there’s no reason to panic into a fit of mass hysteria at the moment, either.
Flight records show Vinson arrived in Cleveland Friday, Oct. 10, returning to Dallas Monday evening, on Oct. 13. The very next day she was diagnosed with a fever, which is typically the first symptom to appear. She was immediately tested and her diagnosis was confirmed later that day.
The director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, has stated that while Vinson was not explicitly ordered into quarantine by the time she flew to Cleveland, it was a lapse of judgment for her to have boarded a plane not once, but twice, for a round-trip to and from Cleveland.
Frieden stated Wednesday:
Because at that point she was in a group of individuals known to have exposure to Ebola, she should not have traveled a commercial airline.
As a result of such an obvious, risky error of judgment, the CDC emphasized that flight data has been released as a precautionary measure, stating explicitly at the same time that Vinson would not have been contagious until she started showing symptoms. Pinpointing that moment is the tricky part. Was is early that same day, Tuesday? Monday? Perhaps even Saturday or Sunday when Vinson became ill and her body worked up to a fever?
It’s easy to see why so much caution is necessary.
In the meantime, Vinson is being transferred from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, presumably so we can look forward to an infection in yet another state, one would guess. Though Emory did successfully treat two missionaries, Dr. Kent Brantley and nurse Nancy Writebol (the first Americans to be diagnosed with the disease), it seems blatantly clear that the more locations and transports brought into play, the more likely and wide an area Ebola may rear its head.
Of Amber Vinson, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins stated Wednesday morning that she is coping with her recent Ebola diagnosis “with grit and grace.”
Emory University Hospital, it’s worth noting, is also treating a third patient for Ebola – an unidentified World Health Organization employee admitted on Sept. 9.
With so many reports, foul-ups in protocol, lapses in judgment and potential points of contamination both within the hospitals treating Ebola patients, as well as out in the general public, things could certainly get interesting real fast. The next three weeks should tell us a lot.