A health worker in Texas at the hospital treating the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States has tested positive for the deadly virus, raising fresh worries about the spread of the disease beyond West Africa.
The worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had been wearing protective gear during treatment of the patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week. The worker reported a low-grade fever on Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing, health officials said on Sunday.
"We knew a second case could be a reality, and we've been preparing for this possibility," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the health service.
The worker is the first person in the United States to test positive for Ebola who has not been to West Africa, where an outbreak has killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
"This individual was following full CDC precautions, which are barrier and droplet so gown, glove, mask and shield," Dan Varga, the hospital's chief clinical officer told a news conference in Dallas.
The hospital has been criticized for at first turning away Duncan when he first showed up there on Sept. 25, saying he had been in Liberia and had a fever. About two days after he was discharged, he was taken back by ambulance and put in an isolation unit.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an interview with network CBS on Sunday there was likely a lapse in protocol at the hospital that led to the health care worker being infected.
"We're deeply concerned about this new development," Dr. Thomas Frieden said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I think the fact that we don't know of a breach in protocol is concerning because clearly there was a breach in protocol."
Duncan died in an isolation ward on Oct. 8, 11 days after being admitted, with more than 50 people attending to his care. The hospital said it was decontaminating its isolation unit while health officials said Duncan's body had been cremated.
None of the 10 people who had close contact with him or 38 people who had contact with that group have shown any symptoms, state health officials said.
Texas officials did not identify the health worker or give any details about the person, but CNN said it was a woman nurse.
The CDC will conduct a test to confirm results of testing in Austin that showed the worker had Ebola, health officials said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the patient had direct contact with Duncan in providing care. He predicted the CDC would "fortify" the protocols for caring for Ebola patients after reviewing the incident in Dallas.
There was a yellow hazardous material drum on the lawn of the red brick apartment where the health worker lived and information pamphlets about the Ebola virus were stuffed in the doors in the surrounding blocks of the apartment.
Neighbor Cliff Lawson, 57, was woken at 6:00 a.m. local time by two Dallas police officers who told him "don't panic."
"I went back to bed after that. There's nothing you can do about it. You can't wrap your house in bubble wrap," Lawson said.
A team is decontaminating the patient's apartment and car, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said.
The patient, who has not been working for two days, was taking their own temperature twice a day. The worker informed the hospital of a fever and was isolated immediately upon their arrival, the hospital said in a statement.
"That health care worker is a heroic person who provided care to Mr Duncan," said Judge Clay Jenkins, chief executive of Dallas County.
Screening at JFK
News of the second patient in Dallas came as U.S. authorities step up efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on Saturday began the screening of travelers from the three hardest hit West African countries.
Liberia is the country worst affected by the virus with 2,316 victims, followed by 930 in Sierra Leone, 778 in Guinea, eight in Nigeria and one in the United States, the World Health Organization said on Friday. Some 4,033 people are known to have died in seven countries from the outbreak, it said.
Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids of an affected person or contamination from objects such as needles. People are not contagious before symptoms such as fever develop.
The United Nations said on Friday that its appeal for $1 billion to respond to the West Africa outbreak was only 25 percent funded.