DALLAS (Reuters) – A second Texas healthcare worker who treated the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States has tested positive for the disease, the Texas Department of State Health Services said on Wednesday.
At least 4,447 people have died in West Africa in the worst Ebola outbreak on record, but cases in the United States and Europe have been limited. The virus can cause fever, bleeding, vomitting and diarrhoea, and spreads through contact with bodily fluids.
In Dallas, the worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, who cared for Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, was immediately isolated after reporting a fever on Tuesday, the state health department said.
“Health officials have interviewed the latest patient to quickly identify any contacts or potential exposures, and those people will be monitored,” it said in a statement.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at an early morning news conference on Wednesday the second infected nurse lived alone and had no pets. He said local health officials moved quickly to clean affected areas involving the second nurse and to alert her neighbours and friends.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is doing everything it can to contain the virus, said Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which owns the hospital. “I don’t think we have a systematic institutional problem,” he said.
At the same news conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s chief political officer, said authorities are anticipating additional possible Ebola cases.
“We are preparing contingencies for more, and that is a very real possibility,” Jenkins said.
Another nurse, 26-year-old Nina Pham, was the first person to have been infected by Ebola in the United States, and was diagnosed this weekend. She had cared for Duncan during much of his 11 days in hospital. He died in an isolation ward on October 8.
The hospital said on Tuesday that Pham was “in good condition”.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement that it was performing confirmation testing of Texas’ preliminary tests on the new patient.
CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden said on Tuesday the agency was establishing a rapid-response team to help hospitals “hands on, within hours” whenever there is a confirmed case of Ebola.
Frieden has come under pressure over the response and preparedness for Ebola, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said US President Barack Obama is confident of Frieden’s ability to lead the public health effort. (Earlier report on page 21)