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Another Ebola case in Dallas

The CDC finally takes some of the steps derided as hysterical over-reaction a couple of weeks ago.

A second health care worker who treated Ebola Patient One, the late Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, tested positive for the disease last night.  It’s horrible news, but not entirely surprising to see more cases popping up now.  This is how Ebola works – it takes a while to incubate.  Anyone who told you there was nothing to worry about, because no one manifested symptoms in the first day or two after Duncan was isolated, was deliberately lying to you.

Happily, the first health care worker infected by Duncan, Nina Pham, is said to be in good condition.  “I’m doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.  “I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.”  Part of her treatment involved a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor, which sounds like the kind of treatment that might be difficult to administer if the outbreak spreads to a large number of additional victims.

Hopefully that will not happen, but the authorities are still grappling with how trained medical personnel wearing protective gear were able to contract the disease – which, you’ll recall, was supposed to be relatively difficult to catch even when untrained people without such equipment come into contact with Ebola victims.  The latest chapter in the feud between Texas nurses and the increasingly uninspiring head of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Tom Frieden, saw the executive director of National Nurses United, RoseAnn DeMoro, alleging that “the protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States, as far as we can tell.”  Frieden had previously insinuated that Nurse Pham got herself infected by failing to follow these protocols – an accusation for which he has since apologized.

CNN reviewed the list of allegations from the nurses’ union:

On the day that Duncan was admitted to the hospital with possible Ebola symptoms, he was “left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present,” union co-president Deborah Burger said.

Up to seven other patients were present in that area, the nurses said, according to the union.

A nursing supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities when the supervisor demanded that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit, the nurses said, according to the union.

After expressing concerns that their necks were exposed even as they wore protective gear, the nurses were told to wrap their necks with medical tape, the union says.

“They were told to use medical tape and had to use four to five pieces of medical tape wound around their neck. The nurses have expressed a lot of concern about how difficult it is to remove the tape from their neck,” Burger said.

“There was no one to pick up hazardous waste as it piled to the ceiling,” Burger said. “They did not have access to proper supplies.”

“There was no mandate for nurses to attend training,” Burger said, though they did receive an e-mail about a hospital seminar on Ebola.

“This was treated like hundreds of other seminars that were routinely offered to staff,” she said.

DeMoro said the union got involved because nursers at Texas Presbyterian were angry at the CDC blaming Pham for causing her own plight.  CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta – who, it should be noted, has also expressed anger at the hospital staff for failing to take precautions he described as “not that challenging” – said the union’s claims were “startling” if true, and could be “important when it comes to possible other infections.”

Well, yes, to put it mildly, the failure of the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services to establish protocols for a disease everyone knew was coming would be “startling,” but also par for the course in this era of perpetual government failure.  This is classic Ineptocracy behavior: given oceans of money (including 300 percent funding increases over the past decade), the agencies set about spending it on frivolous distractions and political agendas, while nobody in the bloated chain of command bothered to look after the basics of their core mission.  The UK Daily Mail has the latest list of madcap spending from the National Institutes of Health, including $2.4 million for origami condoms, $939k to determine that male fruit flies like younger females, $592k to evaluate the poop-throwing skills of chimpanzees, and $257k to create an online game where kids can pretend to take care of Michelle Obama’s garden.  But evidently “teach Ebola protocols to nurses in hospitals near international airports” wasn’t a high priority.

Meanwhile, it turns out we actually do have an “Ebola czar” already – Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the gigantic Department of Health and Human Services, which became the most powerful, highly-funded bureaucracy on the planet after the passage of ObamaCare.  She’s doubtless well-compensated and provided with ample staff to handle her duties, which expressly include preparation for pandemics.  She’s been completely invisible since the beginning of the Ebola crisis, which is why some people have been saying President Obama ought to appoint an Ebola czar.

The fact that House Republicans voted to give the CDC more funding that Obama requested should finish off the dopey “GOP budget cuts cause Ebola” meme that desperate Democrats were passing around like a bong over of the past few days.  There are still serious questions – as in, the sort of questions that should be asked under oath by Congress – about how HHS bungled the Ebola response so badly.  Basic safety protocols wouldn’t require as much funding as, say, the origami condom initiative to devise and disseminate among health care workers, especially given that HHS already has a vertiable army of people working for it.  Re-task the Deputy Assistant to the Deputy Assistant to the Assistant Director of Paperwork Compliance and have him start teaching seminars.  With the lead time available to prepare for the arrival of Ebola, this level of panicked confusion is inexcusable.

Remember how the list of people potentially contaminated by Duncan began as a mere dozen or so, then shot up to over a hundred people, and was whittled back down to twenty?  It’s back up to 125, including 76 people who came into contact with Thomas Duncan, according to the Washington Examiner… and that was before the second health care worker tested positive.

[CDC Director] Frieden told the media that the CDC is now stepping up preventative measures to stop the spread of Ebola to healthcare workers, and will send a CDC team of experts on the disease ??within hours? to any hospital in the United States where an Ebola case is identified.

The CDC has been criticized for its slow response to Duncan, who was first sent home from the hospital even though he had a 103 degree fever and had told a nurse he just arrived from Liberia.

[…] ??I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient [Duncan] was diagnosed,? Frieden said. ??That might have prevented this infection. But, we will do that from this day onward, for any case that is diagnosed within the U.S.?

Frieden said the CDC is also considering a plan to move new Ebola cases diagnosed in the U.S. to one of four biocontainment patient care units, which are located in Nebraska, Montana, Georgia and Maryland.

Yes, I think the rest of us wish that too, Dr. Frieden, which is why you’ll most likely be putting your hand on a Bible and explaining to angry Congressmen why you didn’t put a team on the ground as soon as Duncan was diagnosed.  Now that everything this inept Administration believed about Ebola has been proven wrong, they’re finally taking the steps they derided as hysterical over-reaction a couple of weeks ago.

The common-sense precaution they’re still refusing to take is a travel ban from the hot-zone countries.  In light of the chaos caused by one guy flying in from Liberia, resistance to the travel ban is going to become more difficult.  Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for a ban on Tuesday – before the second Ebola infection was confirmed – and made the same point I did yesterday, concerning the absurdity of claims by Frieden that a ban on commercial passengers from West African nations would make it more difficult to send aid workers into the affected regions.  “Health care personnel can be brought in on military C-130 flights,” said Cruz.  “The risks of epidemic are far too large for us to allow unimpeded commercial flights.”

People are worried about Ebola, but all the irrational hysteria is coming from the Administration and its sycophants.  They’re more worried about the political contagion of failure than the actual virus.  Our high-strung Ruling Class is curled in a fetal position, babbling witlessly about how Ebola panic could increase public opposition to open borders, and how it’s going to cost you extra if you expect the Centers for Disease Control to serve as some sort of “center” for controlling a disease… while the American people wonder why there weren’t teams in hazmat suits on site within a few hours of the first infection, how trained nurses could have caught a hideous disease that isn’t supposed to be highly contagious, and why we’re still letting people fly into America from countries that could soon be experiencing 10,000 cases of Ebola a week.  (And by “soon” I mean “December.”)  They’re not just worried about the creeping dread of a few infections caused by Thomas Duncan; they’re worried about what happens when the next infected passenger steps off an airplane, perhaps in a city other than Dallas.  Why are U.S. authorities on such a steep learning curve for something they confidently assured us they could handle?

Exit question: those thousands of American troops being dispatched into the hot zone were given the kind of Ebola protocol training the nurses of Texas say they didn’t get… right?

Update: NBC News is reporting that the new Ebola victim “flew from Cleveland to Dallas on Frontier Airlines the day before presenting symptoms, according to CDC and Frontier.”  Wonderful.

Update: A report by the Dallas Morning News makes the level of disregard for precautions when dealing with the first Ebola patient sound almost surreal:

Health care workers treating Thomas Eric Duncan in a hospital isolation unit didn??t wear protective hazardous-material suits for two days until tests confirmed the Liberian man had Ebola ?? a delay that potentially exposed perhaps dozens of hospital workers to the virus, according to medical records.

The 3-day window of Sept. 28-30 is now being targeted by investigators for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the key time during which health care workers may have been exposed to the deadly virus by Duncan, who died Oct. 8 from the disease.

Duncan was suspected of having Ebola when he was admitted to a hospital isolation unit Sept. 28, and he developed projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea later that day, according to medical records his family turned over to The Associated Press.

But workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas did not abandon their gowns and scrubs for hazmat suits until tests came back positive for Ebola about 2 p.m. on Sept. 30, according to details of the records released by AP.

The misstep ?? one in a series of potentially deadly mishandling of Duncan ?? raises the likelihood that other health care workers could have been infected. More than 70 workers were exposed to him before he died, but hospital officials have not indicated how many treated him in the initial few days.

Hospital officials have likewise not responded to repeated requests for comment about what types of protective gear was used the first few days, and why officials felt a need to change the gear being used on Sept. 30.

This is, to put it mildly, not what I think most of us were expecting when an Ebola patient gets moved into an isolation ward.  It’s bad enough for colossal errors to be made when Duncan was “merely” a man from Liberia with flu-like symptoms, but leaving the heavy protection aside after he was identified as a likely Ebola carrier- and is experiencing projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea – until the final test results came in?

Update: The new Ebola patient has been identified, and CBS News in Dallas has details of her air travel to Cleveland:

The CDC has announced that the second healthcare worker diagnosed with Ebola ?? now identified as Amber Joy Vinson of Dallas ?? traveled by air Oct. 13, with a low-grade fever, a day before she showed up at the hospital reporting symptoms.

The CDC is now reaching out to all passengers who flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth. The flight landed at 8:16 p.m. CT.

All 132 passengers on the flight are being asked to call 1 800-CDC INFO (1 800 232-4636). Public health professionals will begin interviewing passengers about the flight Wednesday afternoon.

??Although she (Vinson) did not report any symptoms and she did not meet the fever threshold of 100.4, she did report at that time she took her temperature and found it to be 99.5,? said CDC Director Tom Frieden.  Her temperature coupled with the fact that she had been exposed to the virus should have prevented her from getting on the plane, he 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.?

Funny, that’s the same kind of reassurance we got, back when the authorities were telling us it was extremely unlikely anything that happened over the past few days could ever happen.  The CDC has retroactively decided that maybe it’s not such a great idea to have people with Ebola flying around on airplanes, at least not when they’re Americans.  It’s apparently still paranoid hysteria (and racist, as some Twitter correspondents reminded me) to apply that standard to West Africans jetting in from countries that will soon be handling 10,000 Ebola cases a week.

??Those who have exposures to Ebola, she should not have traveled on a commercial airline,? said Dr. Frieden. ??The CDC guidance in this setting outlines the need for controlled movement. That can include a charter plane; that can include a car; but it does not include public transport. 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 specifically noted that the remaining 75 healthcare workers who treated Thomas Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital will not be allowed to fly. The CDC will work with local and state officials to accomplish this.

As for the potentially contaminated aircraft, it was quickly removed from service… or maybe not:

Frontier Airlines is working closely with the CDC to identify and notify all passengers on the flight. The airline also says the plane has been thoroughly cleaned and was removed from service following CDC notification early Wednesday morning.

However, according to Flighttracker, the plane was used for five additional flights on Tuesday before it was removed from service. Those flights include a return flight to Cleveland, Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale??Hollywood International Airport (FLL), FLL to Cleveland, Cleveland to Hartsfield??Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), and ATL to Cleveland.

While in Ohio, Vinson visited relatives, who are employees at Kent State University.  The university is now asking Vinson??s three relatives stay off campus and self-monitor per CDC protocol for the next 21 days out of an ??abundance of caution.?

Every time I hear the phrase “abundance of caution,” I can feel my white blood cells clenching into tiny fists.

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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