Health officials gave Texas nurse Amber Vinson permission to fly to Ohio and back even though she voiced concern about Ebola, her relatives said Sunday, adding that they have retained a high-profile attorney.
Their statement contradicted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention account of what took place before the nurse was diagnosed with the virus.
CDC officials said last week that Vinson had been told to avoid public transportation, including commercial airlines, while monitoring herself for symptoms. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said her trip to Ohio, which began before fellow nurse Nina Pham had been diagnosed with Ebola, violated that restriction. The agency has acknowledged approving Vinson's return flight.
"In no way was Amber careless prior to or after her exposure to Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan," the Ebola patient she treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Vinson's family said Sunday in a statement detailing her interactions with health officials.
The family also said they have retained attorney Billy Martin, a veteran of numerous high-profile cases. He represented NFL star Michael Vick during his dogfighting case, actor Wesley Snipes during his tax case, the parents of federal intern Chandra Levy after her disappearance and the mother of former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky during the sex-and-perjury investigation of President Clinton.
Vinson's family said that before the nurse flew to Cleveland on Oct. 10, she contacted the CDC through her work supervisor "and was fully cleared for travel."
When the Dallas County Health Department contacted her during her trip, Vinson reported her temperature, requested to fly back to Dallas early and asked if she could stay at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital until the end of the monitoring period, her family said.
"Officials assured Amber that her concerns were unfounded because her temperatures were within the appropriate measures and [she was] asymptomatic in all other areas," they said.
"Suggestions that she ignored any of the physician and government-provided protocols recommended to her are patently untrue and hurtful," Vinson's family said.
Vinson flew back to Texas on Oct. 13 despite having a slight fever of 99.5. Her family said she reported her temperature to health officials three times before the flight and was cleared to fly each time.
The next morning, she had a higher fever of 100.3 and entered isolation at the hospital. She was diagnosed with Ebola the following day and transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.