Second Nurse With Ebola Arrives at Emory

Ability of local hospitals to handle Ebola being questioned.

ByABC News
October 15, 2014, 8:48 PM

— -- A Dallas health care worker found today to be infected with Ebola was transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after she became the second person to contract the disease while working in the Dallas facility.

Amber Vinson, 29, was one of the nurses who was very involved with the care for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola at the Dallas hospital. She drew his blood, inserted catheters, and dealt with his bodily fluids, according to Duncan's medical records obtained by the Associated Press.

Her transfer came as the ability of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and any local hospital has been questioned to handle the outbreak. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that some of the makeshift protective measures that health care workers at the Dallas hospital were taking increased "the risk of contamination."

"By putting on more becomes much harder to put them on and much harder to take them off," he said in today's press conference.

"Some health care workers [were] putting on three or four layers of protective equipment in the belief that this would be more protective," he said, adding that some were using tape to close parts of their gear.

"We see a lot of variability in the use of protective equipment," Frieden said.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to exhibit Ebola symptoms in the U.S. and who is now referred to as the "index patient," was initially turned away from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital before later returning days later in an ambulance after his symptoms had progressed.

The nurses' union at the Dallas hospital have detailed what they claim were violations of the CDC's safety protocols including a lack of proper protective wear to overall ignorance on how the disease spreads. The union said Duncan's contaminated and highly contagious blood test was sent through the hospital's standard testing system, potentially infecting others.

Two new Ebola infections at the Dallas hospital have highlighted concerns over whether hospitals are prepared to handle the lethal virus or if all Ebola patients should be sent to specialized facilities.

"I think it is too much to expect a hospital can become an Ebola treatment unit simply by reading guidelines," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC's Medical Correspondent and a former CDC director.

One question that has been raised is why Duncan was not transported from Dallas to one of the two other hospitals with specialized isolation units -- one in Omaha, Nebraska, and the other at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia -- which have successfully treated Ebola patients.

No healthcare workers at the Omaha or Atlanta facilities have reported infections after treating three Ebola patients at Emory University Hospital and Ashoka Mukpo, the American reporter currently in treatment at Nebraska Medical Center.

"I feel very strongly that the approach that has been taken is wrong. Patients with Ebola should be treated in special facilities that have been training to take care of patients with deadly contagious diseases," Besser said.

"Given that patients from Liberia have been safely transported to these units, it should be possible to safely transport patients to these units from any hospital in America," he said.

Prior to announcing the transfer of one of the health care workers, Frieden said that the CDC's protocol moving forward would be to dispatch emergency response teams to any hospital where there is an infected patient. From there, they said the team may decide to send the patients to a different facility, but that is not the first step.

Frieden and other officials have warned that there is a real possibility that more health care workers were infected during their treatment of Duncan. On Tuesday, Frieden said that 76 people could have been exposed to Duncan after his second visit to the hospital.

“It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a press conference today.