CDC director apologizes for hurting feelings after saying Ebola-infected care provider broke protocol

In a regular update on the public health crisis involving a global outbreak of Ebola, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Tom Frieden said that his agency is likely going to have to rethink its strategy aimed at containing the hemorrhagic fever’s spread. Frieden also implied that additional American cases of the illness could be forthcoming following the unwise initial release of “index patient” Thomas Eric Duncan by the Texas hospital even though he was symptomatic at the time.

But the biggest news of Frieden’s press conference came while he was addressing what he had earlier called a “breach of protocol” by the attending health care worker who contacted the disease from Duncan. Frieden said that all care providers who come into contact with an Ebola carrier need to be acutely aware of the threat of this disease, but he also apologized for offending anyone when he characterized this incident as the result of a failure to observer standard procedure.

“‘It is possible that workers will contaminate themselves’ in taking off protective clothing, said Dr. Frieden,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “He said he didn’t mean to be critical of anyone at the Dallas hospital when he spoke Sunday about a ‘breach in protocol.’”

“I feel awful that a health-care worker became infected trying to help an Ebola patient survive,” said Dr. Frieden. He said authorities still were trying to find out how the nurse in Dallas became infected, and described her condition as clinically stable.

Dr. Frieden said the CDC had “not identified a specific problem” that led to the nurse’s infection. He said some health-care workers think “more is better,” putting on additional gloves and protective equipment. But this can “inadvertently increase risk,” he said, because this may make the materials hard to remove.

Officials do not yet know exactly how the unidentified nurse attending to Duncan became infected, but the most important thing is not to hurt anyone’s feelings by suggesting her infection was anything other than an act of God.

The public is justifiably apprehensive over the first case of human-to-human transmission of Ebola inside the United States, particularly since it reportedly occurred even in spite of the fact that the infected individual was wearing protective gear. The public would be better served if the officials responding to this health crisis cared less for the emotional sensitivities of health care workers and more for the stemming this outbreak.