Healthcare scare: Ebola spreads in Texas; hospital ER closed, opened, closed again

by Staff, |
Colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealing some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. | Frederick A. Murphy

DALLAS (Christian Examiner) – Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas announced Sunday morning that contact with the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S. has infected a nurse at the hospital.

THPH representative Wendell Watson released a statement Oct. 12, saying "Late Saturday evening, a preliminary blood test on a care-giver at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas showed positive for Ebola."

In a press briefing Sunday, Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was more specific about the nature of the nurse's infection, blaming a "breach in protocol."

The health care worker developed symptoms on Friday, he said, was tested Saturday and the lab results on Sunday confirmed infection with the Ebola virus.

Watson said the nurse was a caretaker for Thomas Eric Duncan who died Oct. 8 from the Ebola virus barely 13 days after developing symptoms Sept. 24.

Duncan was seen twice at the hospital's emergency room. He first was sent away with a prescription to treat a possible sinus infection, but on his second visit, Sept. 26, was admitted to the hospital and isolated two days after that for Ebola.

The healthcare worker had been under the self-monitoring regimen prescribed by the CDC, based on involvement in caring for patient Thomas Eric Duncan during his inpatient care that started on September 28.

"The patient's condition is stable," Watson said, adding that a "close contact has also been proactively placed in isolation."

The names of the patient and the close contact were not released.

News about the spread of the highly infectious disease, contracted by Duncan in Liberia, was accompanied by an announcement that the emergency room at Presbyterian Hospital essentially had been shut down by placing it in diversion status because of "limitations in staffed capacity," according to Watson.

The change in operations meant Dallas area ambulances would not bring patients to THPH.

Watson said the hospital would be triple checking compliance with updated CDC guidelines during the down time, emphasizing the hospital was monitoring all staff who had contact with Duncan.

Nearly 12 hours later, Presbyterian announced emergency room operations had been resumed, only to close operations again less than half an hour later.

The hospital did not elaborate on what caused this sequence of events.

However, in the original announcement on Oct. 12, Watson stated "All of these steps are being taken so the public and our own employees can have complete confidence in the safety and integrity of our facilities and the care we provide."