(DALLAS) — A second Texas nurse who has tested positive for Ebola was on a commercial jetliner from Cleveland to Dallas the night before she arrived at the hospital with a fever and was later diagnosed with the deadly virus, officials said Wednesday.
Amber Joy Vinson was part of the team at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who took care of a Liberian man who died of Ebola. She is the second member of the hospital staff to contract the virus and a Dallas official warned Wednesday that additional cases among the hospital’s health care workers is a “very real possibility.”
“The fight against Ebola in Dallas is a two-front fight now,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, speaking at a morning press conference.
Authorities said they are now tracking 75 people following the second hospital worker’s diagnosis. The unidentified health care worker reported a fever Tuesday and was isolated at the hospital, authorities said.
The preliminary Ebola test was run late Tuesday at the state public health laboratory in Austin, and results were received at about midnight, authorities said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun confirmation testing.
The woman was put into isolation within 90 minutes, and she is dealing with her diagnosis “with grit and grace,” Jenkins said.
Authorities said this may not be the last case to be found among the hospital’s staff.
“We are preparing contingencies for more and that is a very real possibility,” Jenkins said.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also suggested additional people may get sick.
“It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” the mayor said.
Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources defended practices at the hospital, which has faced criticism amid the Ebola diagnoses.
“It’s clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime in our treatment of Duncan. Let’s be clear we’re a hospital that serves this community extremely well,” Varga said at the press conference.
“We’re the first to diagnose and treat this insidious disease that has attacked two of our own.”
City workers went to the neighborhood of the second patient early this morning to knock on doors to alert people to the news and to be alert to possible symptoms. They handed out flyers and later began robo calls to the area, Varga said.
Rawlings said the community remains vigilant.
“The only way that we are going to beat this is person by person, moment by moment, detail by detail,” Rawlings said. “While Dallas is anxious about this … We are not fearful.”
Health officials interviewed the patient, hoping to track down any contacts or potential exposures in the community, the CDC said in a statement.
“While this is troubling news for the patient, the patient’s family and colleagues and the greater Dallas community, the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services remain confident that wider spread in the community can be prevented with proper public health measures including ongoing contact tracing, health monitoring among those known to have been in contact with the index patient and immediate isolations if symptoms develop,” the CDC said in a statement.
Authorities visited the patient’s apartment Wednesday morning to begin decontamination efforts.
The workers donned hazmat suits, trying to protect themselves from exposure.
The new diagnosis comes days after nurse Nina Pham, 26, who also treated Duncan, was diagnosed with Ebola. Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola Sept. 30 and died Oct. 8.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden had previously suggested that Pham may not be the only person who became infected while treating Duncan. “It is possible that other individuals could have been infected,” Frieden said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell admitted that the reasons for the hospital workers becoming infected aren’t clear.
“Those are people that came in contact because we don’t understand exactly how the breach in protocol occurred,” Burwell told ABC News Wednesday. “We are taking the precaution of making sure that anyone within that treatment phase will be tracked and monitored in a more serious way.”
Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to recent figures by the World Health Organization.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
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