Second Texas nurse with Ebola receiving care at Atlanta hospital

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 16, 2014 6:59 AM

By Terry Wade

DALLAS (Reuters) - The second nurse to contract Ebola in the United States was being treated at an Atlanta hospital Thursday, as news she had traveled by plane while symptomatic heightened concern over the spread of the virus and sparked reactions in Washington and on Wall Street.

U.S. airline stocks tumbled and some lawmakers called for travel restrictions Wednesday after officials said nurse Amber Vinson flew on a Frontier Airlines jet from Cleveland, Ohio back to Dallas, Texas with a slight fever Monday, a day before she was diagnosed with Ebola.

In Ohio, where Vinson had visited family members, two schools in the Cleveland suburb of Solon were closed Thursday because an employee may have traveled on the same plane as Vinson, though on a different flight.

In Texas, the Belton school district said three of its schools were closed Thursday because two students were on the same flight as a nurse infected with Ebola. The district is in central Texas, about 130 miles southwest of Dallas.

The Ohio health department said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was sending staff to help coordinate efforts to contain the spread of Ebola.

Rising public anxiety over the virus prompted President Barack Obama to cancel two days of political events just weeks before Nov. 4 congressional elections that will help shape the remainder of his term.

Vinson, 29, was among the health care workers who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, before his Oct. 8 death at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Frontier Airlines said on Thursday it had placed six crew members on paid leave for 21 days "out of an abundance of caution."

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said it was unlikely other passengers who traveled on the plane with Vinson were infected because the nurse had not vomited or bled on the flight, but he said she should not have boarded the plane.

The virus, which also causes fever and diarrhea, is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person.

A federal official said Wednesday Vinson had told the CDC her temperature was 99.5 Fahrenheit (37.5 Celsius), but "was not told not to fly" because that was below the CDC's temperature threshold of 100.4F (38C).

Frieden and other officials were scheduled to testify at a congressional hearing Thursday on the country's response to the Ebola threat from West Africa, where at least 4,493 people have died in the devastating Ebola outbreak.

Vinson was the second nurse at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to become infected, raising concerns about how the Dallas facility handled the disease. Nina Pham, 26, was diagnosed with the virus over the weekend.

One nurse who helped treat Pham came forward Thursday with accusations that the Dallas hospital was unprepared to tackle the virus and lacked proper protective gear.

    "It was a total chaotic scene," Briana Aguirre told NBC's "Today" program.

    Nurses were not briefed or prepared for Ebola, she told NBC, and no special precautions were taken when Duncan was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 28, days after he was initially turned away.

Both Texas nurses had been monitoring themselves for signs of infection. Vinson was isolated immediately after reporting a fever on Tuesday, state health officials said.

She was transferred by air ambulance to the specially equipped Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday night, the hospital said. Three other people with Ebola were treated there and two have been discharged, it said.

(Writing by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Bernadette Baum)