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Latest Ebola patient traveled by plane

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Latest Ebola patient traveled by plane

  • Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (red) attached and budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (blue) (25,000x magnification).
    NAIDColorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (red) attached and budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (blue) (25,000x magnification).

A second health care worker in Dallas who tested positive for the Ebola virus traveled by plane on Monday, one day before reporting symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The federal public health agency said it is contacting all 132 passengers on the health care worker’s evening flight from Cleveland to Dallas. In a statement, Frontier Airlines said the patient “exhibited no symptoms or sign of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew,” and that it had removed the aircraft from service.

“The diagnosis of a second health care worker in Dallas reaffirms what a formidable foe this virus is," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement.

The worker had provided care for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Duncan died Oct. 8 of the disease. The first hospital worker to test positive for Ebola, nurse Nina Pham, also provided care for Duncan. Her condition was listed as good on Tuesday, and she released a statement saying she was doing well.

That another health care worker has become infected is a “serious concern,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an earlier statement Wednesday. But the agency stressed it had “already taken active steps to minimize the risk to health care workers and the patient.”

During a press conference early Wednesday, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings said officials were working to decontaminate the second health worker’s apartment complex.

"It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better," Rawlings said about the new case.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has come under scrutiny for its handling of the Ebola cases. Federal health officials have said a breach of protocol led to the health care workers’ infections. But Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer and senior executive vice president of the hospital's parent organization, Texas Health Resources, defended the response.

"I don't think we have a systematic institutional problem," he said at the press conference.

On Tuesday, CDC officials told reporters that they were monitoring at least 75 other health care workers who might have come in contact with Duncan while he was hospitalized. People who may have come into contact with the second worker will also be monitored, state health officials said.

The second worker tested positive for Ebola in a preliminary test at a state laboratory, and a test to confirm the diagnosis will be done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Ebola is spread through “direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person or exposure to contaminated objects such as needles," the state health department's website says. "People are not contagious before symptoms such as fever develop."

Duncan had traveled to Dallas from Liberia and was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Sept. 28 after he was diagnosed with the virus. He was initially sent home from an earlier trip to the hospital on Sept. 26, despite telling hospital staff that he had traveled from Africa.

Alexa Ura contributed reporting. This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News.

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