Jazz Shaw reported on Sunday that a Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital care provider who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the American Ebola victim whom the Centers for Disease Control have taken to calling the “index patient,” has tested positive for the deadly hemorrhagic fever.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told the Associated Press that the spread of the infection was the result of a failure to observe proper procedures for handling an Ebola patient. He added that there “certainly had to have been an inadvertent, innocent breach of protocol of taking care of a patient within the personal protective equipment.”
“I think the fact that we don’t know of a breach in protocol is concerning, because clearly there was a breach in protocol,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden concurred in an appearance on CBS News. “We have the ability to prevent a spread in Ebola.”
“We know from many years of experience that it’s possible to care for patients with Ebola safely, without risk to health care workers,” he added. “But even a single breach can result in contamination.”
This revelation comes just days after the AP published a report which indicated that this Texas hospital released Duncan after his first visit even though he was evidencing symptoms associated with Ebola infection and he had disclosed that he had recently returned from a trip to West Africa.
The CDC has warned that it is possible that more Ebola cases in the United States will be detected in the coming days. Given the apparent infectiousness of this strain of Ebola, that would not come as a surprise.
It will not merely be American civilians who could contract this deadly disease in the coming weeks. According to an ABC News medical expert, there is no guarantee that the American service personnel who are due to be deployed to West Africa in the coming days in order to help arrest the spread of this latest Ebola epidemic will not contact the virus themselves.
“Certainly going over there, they could indirectly get contact, but their primary mission is not to take care of patients,” Fauci told ABC News on Sunday. He noted that the mission for American military forces deployed to the region will be focused on “logistics, engineering, command and control, and setting up field hospitals,” and did not concede that there was a high likelihood U.S. forces in the area may be exposed to the virus.
But ABC News medical expert Richard Besser conceded that there is a “very real” possibility some forces may come into contact with Ebola victims and succumb to the disease themselves.
“Right now we have a situation where only 20% of patients with Ebola are being treated in treatment units,” Besser told ABC News host Martha Raddatz. “So there are a lot of patients who have Ebola who are not in a protected environment. So the possibility of a soldier getting Ebola is very real and something we have to be ready for.”
While the potential for an African-style Ebola outbreak in the United States remains extremely remote, American health and defense officials do not appear to be taking the appropriate precautions in order to prevent one.