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Ebola-infected nurse arrives at Atlanta's Emory hospital for treatment

The 2nd nurse to have tested positive for Ebola flew on an airliner before reporting symptoms, officials say

One of two Dallas nurses who tested positive for Ebola was transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment late Wednesday, the hospital said. 

Amber Vinson, 29, was among those who had treated Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. She became the second healthcare worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to contract the deadly virus after treating the Liberian, who died Oct. 8.

Vinson had been in Ohio visiting her family for the weekend, arriving back in Dallas on Monday. She went to the hospital Tuesday and was diagnosed with Ebola early Wednesday. 

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said she should not have flown on a commercial airline Monday, because she had a slight fever and was among the healthcare workers who are to monitor themselves for symptoms after treating Duncan. Later, however, the agency made clear that Vinson had CDC approval to fly to Ohio on Oct. 10. (Hours later, the Associated Press reported that Vinson also had received CDC permission to fly back to Dallas. That could not be immediately confirmed.) 

Frieden focused on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas.  Vinson had developed a fever of 99.5 before leaving Ohio to return to Dallas, he said -- a temperature that is a bit higher than normal, but not alarmingly so.

But because she was in a group of exposed people and had even a low-grade fever, she should not have been traveling that day, he said.

“So by both of those criteria, she should not have been on that plane,” Frieden said. “I don’t think that changes the level of risk of people around her. She did not vomit; she was not bleeding, so the level of risk of people around her would be extremely low, but because of that extra margin of safety, we will be contacting them all.

“We will, from this moment forward, ensure that no other individual who is being monitored for exposure undergoes travel in any way other than controlled movement,” Frieden said.

According to the CDC, about 50 healthcare workers entered Duncan’s room during his hospitalization and about 25 other healthcare workers are being monitored.

“We’re reviewing those and ensuring intensive follow-up of those individuals,” Frieden said. “We are also planning for other eventualities in case we get additional cases in the coming days.”

The group of healthcare workers being watched is in addition to the 48 people who originally had contact with Duncan, who stayed with family and friends in a Dallas apartment after he arrived in Texas on Sept. 20. Of the original group, four people, including Duncan’s fiancee, are in quarantine in Dallas until this weekend.

None in the original group has developed symptoms, health officials said.

Late Wednesday, Texas Health Presbyterian invited any of its affected employees to stay at the hospital during their monitoring period "to avoid even the remote possibility of any potential exposure to family, friends and the broader public." The hospital statement emphasized that it was a precaution, not a requirement.

The second nurse was identified by her family as Amber Vinson. The first nurse who contracted Ebola, Nina Pham, 26, remains in isolation at the Dallas hospital. A man who was in contact with Pham is also isolation, but has not tested positive for the virus, officials said.

Vinson will be cared for in the same isolation unit at Emory University Hospital where three Ebola patients have been treated. The first two patients, medical missionaries, were discharged in late August. A third patient who has not been identified arrived Sept. 9 and is being treated there, the hospital said Wednesday.

Pham may also be transferred, Frieden said.

‘“She is in improved condition today. We will assess each hour, each day, whether [the Dallas hospital is] the best place for her or somewhere else might be.” Frieden said.

Laura Smith, secretary for Vinson's father, Ronald Shuler of Akron, Ohio, said the immediate family had no comment.

“She’s just a lovely person and I’m sad,” Martha Shuler, 80, another relative, told the Los Angeles Times. “I hope and pray when she gets better. I want her to leave Texas.”

Vinson is a registered nurse who grew up in Ohio, Shuler said. She was a graduate of Kent State University, receiving degrees in 2006 and 2008, the school said.

Without naming the nurse, the school said that she had three relatives who were working at Kent State. The family members have been asked to stay off campus for 21 days while they are monitored for symptoms.

Vinson did not visit the campus on her trip to Ohio.

The CDC has asked the 132 passengers on the plane to contact the agency to be interviewed. Experts have said that only someone with symptoms can spread the virus, which health officials estimate has killed more than 4,400 people in West Africa. 

Passengers are asked to call the CDC at (800) 232-4636.

In a statement, the airline said the plane remained overnight Monday at the airport and “received a thorough cleaning per our normal procedures which is consistent with CDC guidelines,” the airline said. The plane returned to service Tuesday and was cleaned again in Cleveland that night.”

The plane has been taken out of service, the airline said.

Dallas officials deliberately announced the new Ebola case in time to alert and reassure people as they were waking up, Mayor Mike Rawlings told reporters at a televised briefing.

The city has begun decontamination efforts at the home of the woman most recently infected, who lives alone and has no pets, he said.

Outside the massive complex of two-story, stucco apartment buildings called the Village Apartments where the woman lives, residents jogged and snapped photos of news crews and helicopters circling. Dallas police guarded the entrances.

Rawlings said officials went door to door at the complex, and were handing out information to apartments nearby. A reverse 911 call went out at 6:15 a.m.

“We want to minimize rumors and maximize facts. We want to deal with facts, not fear,” he said.

“I believe Dallas is anxious about this but we are not fearful,” the mayor said. “It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.”

Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which runs Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, discounted the possibility that the second case indicated a systemic problem at the facility.

“Today's development, while concerning and unfortunate, is continued evidence that our monitoring program is working,” he told reporters.

Duncan arrived in Texas on Sept. 20 and went to the hospital on Sept. 25. He was sent home with antibiotics, only to be rushed back on Sept. 28.

“A lot is being said about what may or may not have occurred to cause some of our colleagues to contract this disease, but it is clear there was an exposure somewhere sometime in their treatment of Mr. Duncan,” Varga said.

“We’re a hospital that may have done things different – with the benefit of what we know today – but make no mistake, no one wants to get this right more than our hospital, the first to diagnose this insidious disease that now has attacked two of our own,” he said.

Mohan reported from Dallas and Muskal from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Tina Susman and Christine Mai-Duc contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

8:32 p.m.: This post was updated with Texas hospital's invitation to employees to stay at work until their Ebola monitoring period is us. 

6:50 p.m.: This post was updated with Vinson's arrival at Emory. 

5:35 p.m.: This post was updated to say that the CDC approved Vinson's trip to Ohio on Oct. 10. 

2:39 p.m.: This post was updated to include information fbout protective orders from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. 

1:30 p.m.: This post was updated with new information throughout.

6:07 a.m.: This post was updated throughout with additional details and background.

6:45 a.m. This post was updated with officials' comments on the latest case.

7:46 a.m.: This post was updated to reflect comments from resaidents at the home of the woman who was diagnosed with Ebola.

9:06 a.m.: This post was updated with news that the second nurse to have been diagnosed with Ebola flew on a commercial airline on Monday, before having reported symptoms.

10:24 a.m. This post was updated with additional information from health officials 

This post was originally published at 3:10 a.m.

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