New Ebola patient flew on airplane the day before diagnosis

Say, these CDC protocols to keep Ebola from spreading are working out well, aren’t they? The health worker that came into contact with the deceased Ebola patient and tested positive overnight for the virus got symptomatic after flying on a plane — with 132 passengers on board:

A second Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who tested positive for the Ebola virus flew on a commercial flight from Cleveland, Ohio to Dallas, Texas on Monday– a day before she reported symptoms of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The health worker, who has not been named, cared for an Ebola-stricken Liberian man, and tested positive for the disease in a preliminary test, Texas health officials announced Wednesday morning.

She flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 at around 6:00 p.m. EST on Oct. 13. There were 132 passengers on board. The CDC said that they are working with the airline to find those passengers. The CDC also said that the health care worker did not exhibit any symptoms while on the flight. A person infected with Ebola is only contagious once the person becomes symptomatic.

Well, that may not be terribly comforting at this point. What exactly does “symptomatic” mean, and when does someone become contagious precisely? If the contagious stage comes only after the fever begins, then the rest of the passengers and crew of Frontier 1143 have nothing to worry about. But if the contagious stage starts when one’s feeling run down or tired prior to running a fever, then the 24-hour window this scenario sets up will sound very, very worrisome to anyone else on her flight — and anyone who has come into contact with them.

But there’s another question to be asked here, too. The first transmission to one of Duncan’s health care team was confirmed on Sunday morning. Why was another member of Duncan’s care team getting on a commercial flight Monday evening? Shouldn’t the CDC have ensured that the other members of the care team stayed put for a while after it became clear that the virus had defeated whatever protocols had been in place? Perhaps not on full isolation protocol, but, you know … staying off of public transportation?

The Texas hospital where the breakout has occurred offered this statement:

“Today’s development … while concerning and unfortunate, is continued evidence that our monitoring system is working,” said Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, the hospital system to which the Dallas hospital belongs.

Does it? It certainly doesn’t appear that way from here. Where else have members of Duncan’s care team traveled in the last few days?

Update: From an updated version of the same Washington Post story, one official defends self-monitoring as a strategy:

Jenkins, the Dallas County judge, said the procedure of allowing the remaining 75 health workers to self-monitor their temperatures and look for signs of other symptoms such as diarrhea is working.

“This is not going to be a situation where we’re going to put protective orders on 75 health workers,” Jenkins said. “The system right now is working.”

Define working, because the potential and completely avoidable exposure to 132 airline passengers plus crew sure doesn’t sound like an effective way to stop the spread of a viral disease. It sounds like a strategy to spread it across the country.

Update: From Twitter user I Aver, recall what the CDC’s top official said Sunday afternoon:

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more people in the U.S. may contract Ebola after a Texas healthcare worker had a positive result to a preliminary test for the disease.

“Unfortunately, it is possible in the coming days that we will see additional cases of Ebola,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden told reporters Sunday, speaking about the health worker, who had treated an Ebola patient who died last week at a hospital in Dallas.

“This is because the healthcare workers who cared for this individual may have had a breach of the same nature as the individual who appears now to have a preliminary positive test.”

Aaaaaaaaaand …. it never occurred to Frieden to tell them not to get on commercial flights or buses at that point?