A second healthcare worker in Dallas has been diagnosed with Ebola, and the city is expecting to see even more cases, officials said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Both workers contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who started exhibiting Ebola symptoms after travelling to the US for a visit. He died last week.
“We are preparing contingencies for more [Ebola cases], and that is a very real possibility,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
It’s unclear exactly how these two healthcare workers contracted Ebola, but the largest nurses’ union in the US released a statement on Tuesday alleging missteps by the hospital in caring for Duncan. He was allegedly left in an open area of the emergency room for hours, and the nurses who were caring for him reportedly didn’t have the proper protective gear.
Officials are currently monitoring 75 healthcare workers who were involved in Duncan’s care in Dallas. They are not currently working at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, and they are self-monitoring for possible symptoms of Ebola. They’re regularly checking their temperature and are told to report to the hospital for testing if they start experiencing any symptoms.
Symptoms of Ebola resemble the flu at first with a high fever, but in many cases the disease escalates to internal and external bleeding and organ failure. Ebola is transmitted via the bodily fluids of symptomatic people, meaning that patients aren’t contagious before they start showing symptoms.
Healthcare workers who care for Ebola patients are more at risk of contracting the virus than the general public because they come into closer contact with the bodily fluids of patients who are very ill.
Hospital employees wear protective gear and follow strict procedures to prevent exposure, but these methods apparently aren’t foolproof.
“It’s clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime in [these two healthcare workers’] treatment of Mr. Duncan,” said Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources. “We’re looking at every element of … infection control inside the hospitals.”
Those who live in the apartment complex inhabited by the newest Ebola patient have been notified, and officials are working to decontaminate the patient’s apartment and car as well as common areas of the apartment complex.
“There is hope if we take care and do what is right in these details,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.”
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