One of the health care workers who treated Ebola patient Thomas Duncan has now tested positive for for the disease.
The hospital employee, a woman whom officials did not identify, worked at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, died last Wednesday. The health care worker reported a low-grade fever Friday night, went to the hospital at some point after that and was immediately admitted and put in isolation, officials said.
The case, following the failure to recognize the Liberian man as a potential Ebola patient when he first sought treatment at the hospital, raises further questions about whether hospitals in the United States are prepared to deal with the disease.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a news conference on Sunday that his agency was considering the idea that Ebola patients should be transferred to hospitals with special containment units and experience in treating the disease.
The infection is being considered a breach in treatment precautions: the woman was wearing full CDC-recommended protective gear, but may have touched Duncan's face without gloves when he was covered in blood and his own bodily fluids, and as a result she has become ill. The other health care workers at the hospital are being kept isolated as a result.
If it was a protocol mistake, then it shows just how ruthless this disease can be. If it wasn't, and somehow the disease infected the woman anyway, then that is a whole separate virology problem. The nightmare scenario has long been a strain of Ebola that mutates, evolves, and can be transmitted as an airborne virus. That would mean massive risk in dealing with it, treating it, and caring for those who contract it.
It's much, much, much more likely that this was a lapse in judgment by the woman who exposed herself to the bodily fluids that were infected. The latter scenario would be unthinkable.
EDIT: As Rob Wolfe points out in the comments, there's zero chance Ebola goes airborne. That's important because there's a whole lot of fearmongering that says otherwise (especially from the right), and it's irresponsible and wrong.