There are now two more confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States. The first Ebola patient, Thomas Duncan, in Dallas, Texas succumbed to the virus on Wednesday, Oct. 8. The second and third patients are 26-year-old Nina Pham and 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, who were nurses that treated Duncan prior to his death.
Vinson traveled between Dallas and Cleveland on flight 1143 on Frontier Airlines the day before she showed symptoms of the virus. All 132 passengers will be interviewed and monitored for symptoms of Ebola. Ebola is not contagious unless the patient is experiencing active symptoms.
Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola but the average is eight to 10 days. Symptoms of Ebola are fever over 101.5 F, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, it is still unknown exactly how the nurses contracted the virus. The CDC has made immediate improvements in the processes and procedures to reduce risk to health care personnel at Texas Presbyterian Hospital. Care for a patient with Ebola requires meticulous attention to detail, and refining these steps makes it safer and easier.
The CDC team is looking into what personal protective equipment (PPE) is being used and how it is being put on and taken off; what medical procedures were done on the index patient that may have exposed the healthcare worker; the decontamination processes for workers leaving the isolation unit; ensuring oversight and monitoring of all infection control practices, particularly putting on and taking off PPE, at each shift in each location where this occurs should be implemented; and what enhanced training and/or changes in protocol may be needed.
While there have been scares of Ebola in Florida, there have been no confirmed cases, however, Governor Rick Scott is taking the threat serious and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) asked the federal CDC to instruct Florida hospitals on best practices and what lessons have been learned from their experience in Dallas to best protect Florida healthcare workers in the event that Florida has an Ebola patient.
“Now that there is a second healthcare worker with Ebola in Dallas, we want Florida hospitals to hear directly from the CDC on how to best protect our health care workers on the front lines,” said Gov. Scott. “While the CDC has existing guidance, there have been public reports from nurses in Texas that either that guidance was not followed, or the guidance for healthcare workers needs to be updated. Whatever the case may be, Florida hospitals must hear any new safety guidelines directly from the CDC in the next 48 hours so our hospitals are best prepared to protect the health of nurses, doctors and patients.”
Gov. Scott has also informed the CDC of DOH to redirect federal grant funding within the next 48 hours so that more personal protective equipment and other supplies can be purchased to prepare for any case of Ebola in Florida.
For the three confirmed cases in the United States, there are 11 contacts with definite exposure and 107 possible contacts. The CDC is conducting daily follow-ups with the contacts and possible contact and will continue 21 days from the date of each person’s exposure.