Home / National News / Ebola Nurse Amber Vinson Called Texas Health Officials Before Flight, Uncle Says


(ATLANTA) — Dallas nurse Amber Vinson did not directly call federal health officials for permission to board a passenger flight Monday, instead she spoke to a team of Texas health officials who relayed her symptoms to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, her uncle told ABC News.

“They called Amber back and told her, ‘The CDC is OK with it. You can travel,” Lawrence Vinson said Friday.

Vinson said his niece would not have traveled if she had been worried about her condition.

“Amber is one of the most conscientious individuals I know, and she certainly would not have done anything to put the other passengers on that plane or her family at risk,” he said. “Amber flew home and went home. If she felt ill, she would have gone straight to the hospital.”

Meanwhile, authorities have placed travel restrictions on 75 health care workers in Dallas who are being monitored for symptoms, Texas health department officials said.

People who entered Ebola patient Thomas Duncan’s hospital room are being directed not to go to public places such as grocery stores, or travel by plane, ship or train for 21 days after exposure, officials said Thursday night.

The travel restriction was instituted because of Vinson’s situation, authorities acknowledged.

“The direction comes after a health care worker involved in Duncan’s care had been on a flight shortly before diagnosis of the disease,” a statement by the Texas Department of State Health Services reads.

CDC officials said Thursday they are looking into a new timeline for Vinson’s symptoms, with the possibility that she was exhibiting symptoms for days before she sought medical attention.

“[We have] started to look at the possibility that she had symptoms going back as far as Saturday … which has to do with the bridal shop. But some more information that’s come through recently, we can’t rule out that she might have had the start of her illness Friday,” Dr. Chris Braden of the CDC said. “We need to go back now to the flight on [Oct.] 10th to give our investigation the right context.”

Vinson took a Frontier Airlines plane from Dallas to Cleveland Oct. 10. Three days later, she returned to Dallas on another Frontier Airlines flight. Because of a slightly elevated temperature — 99.5 degrees — she reported the condition before boarding, but it fell below the 100.4 reading for a fever, so she was allowed to board. A fever is one of the symptoms of Ebola, along with diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Vinson arrived at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Tuesday morning with a fever and was diagnosed with Ebola in the early hours of Wednesday. She was relocated to Emory University Hospital’s isolation unit in Atlanta Wednesday night.

The situation has prompted Frontier Airlines to contact passengers on seven flights, two flights the nurse took, and five other flights involving the same planes.

Vinson and fellow nurse Nina Pham contracted Ebola through caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States Sept. 30. He died Oct. 8.

Vinson’s mother, Debra Berry, says her daughter was thrown into a mode of “extreme precaution and fear” after Pham was diagnosed with Ebola, and that her daughter wasn’t symptomatic when she traveled from Ohio to Dallas.

Berry classified her daughter as “caring, selfless and committed” in a statement to ABC News.

“As her mother, I am hopeful that no other parent will have to endure the manner of separation that I’ve endured in the last 48 hours,” she said in the statement.

The plights of Vinson and Pham, who’s being treated at the National Institutes of Health clinical center in Maryland, have exposed shortcomings in Ebola care, with the health care community “underestimating the challenge of diagnosis,” Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources told ABC Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.

“We were well-prepared to take care of a patient who walked in holding a sign that says, ‘I have Ebola,’” Varga said. “And a couple weeks ago it was a gentleman walking in off the street with nonspecific symptoms who happened to have Ebola. It’s a different concept diagnosing Ebola than being able to treat Ebola, and being prepared to diagnose it.”

The hospital followed the guidelines outlined by federal health officials, Varga said.

“We have no indication that Nina or Amber had any break in protocol,” he said. “We were working with the best information we had. In retrospect, would we have liked to hermetically seal them so this didn’t happen? Absolutely.”

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