Dallas Health Worker Tests Positive for Ebola
An unidentified female health worker who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., has tested positive for the disease.
She wore a gown, gloves, a mask, and a shield as she treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, according to Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which oversees the hospital. Despite those precautions, Varga said, the health worker reported a fever on Friday.
“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” said David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, according to The Associated Press. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”
Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that a yet-to-be-determined breach in protocol resulted in the diagnosis.
“It is deeply concerning that this infection occurred,” Frieden said. The CDC will run more tests. If the diagnosis is confirmed, it will be the first known case of Ebola transmitted in the U.S.
Health care workers caring for Ebola patients are especially vulnerable, even with protective gear. The AP reported that in West Africa, more than 370 workers have become ill or died since the start of the epidemic this year.
Last month, President Obama announced a crowdsourcing campaign to improve the personal protective equipment used by public health workers in the region. The contest, called “Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development,” will grant $100,000 to $1 million to whoever can come up with a design that can protect against the virus, as well as extreme heat and humidity.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is overseeing the challenge, the gear should offer enhanced protection and be breathable, reusable, and inexpensive. Other ideas for improving prevention and health care methods will also be rewarded.
More than 4,000 people—the majority in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—have died from the Ebola outbreak.