(DALLAS) — A Dallas health care worker found on Wednesday to be infected with Ebola will be transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after she became the second person to contract the disease while working in the Dallas facility.
The transfer was announced Wednesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell during a press briefing.
The announcement came as the ability of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital — and any local hospital — to handle the outbreak has been questioned.
“I think it is too much to expect a hospital can become an Ebola treatment unit simply by reading guidelines,” said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ medical correspondent and a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to exhibit Ebola symptoms in the U.S. and who is now referred to as the “index patient,” was initially turned away from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital before returning days later in an ambulance after his symptoms had progressed.
The nurses’ union at the Dallas hospital have detailed what they claim were violations of the CDC’s safety protocols, including a lack of proper protective wear, to overall ignorance on how the disease spreads. The union said Duncan’s contaminated and highly contagious blood test was sent through the hospital’s standard testing system, potentially infecting others.
One question that has been raised is why Duncan was not transported from Dallas to one of the two other hospitals with specialized isolation units — one in Omaha, Nebraska, and the other at Emory University in Atlanta — which have successfully treated Ebola patients.
No healthcare workers at either facility have reported infections after treating three Ebola patients at Emory University Hospital and Ashoka Mukpo, the American reporter currently in treatment at Nebraska Medical Center.
“I feel very strongly that the approach that has been taken is wrong. Patients with Ebola should be treated in special facilities that have been training to take care of patients with deadly contagious diseases,” Besser said.
“Given that patients from Liberia have been safely transported to these units, it should be possible to safely transport patients to these units from any hospital in America,” he said.
Prior to announcing the transfer of one of the health care workers, CDC Director Tom Frieden said that the agency’s protocol moving forward would be to dispatch emergency response teams to any hospital where there is an infected patient. From there, they said the team may decide to send the patients to a different facility, but that is not the first step.
Frieden and other officials have warned that there is a real possibility that more health care workers were infected during their treatment of Duncan. On Tuesday, Frieden said that 76 people could have been exposed to Duncan after his second visit to the hospital.
“It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a press conference Wednesday.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
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