New Dallas Ebola Case Brings Attention to Risks Faced by Healthcare Workers

A breach in safety protocol at a Dallas Hospital has caused a female health care worker to become infected with Ebola after having extensive contact with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan.

The development — the first case of the deadly disease transmitted in the United States — stunned health officials who had not included the woman in the group of 48 people being monitored for the disease because she was thought to be of low risk for infection because she had worn personal protective equipment while caring for Duncan.

But the woman developed symptoms on Friday, and preliminary diagnostic tests came back positive late Saturday — a reminder of the risk nurses, doctors and other hospital workers face treating sufferers of the disease. More than 400 healthcare workers, the vast majority in West Africa, have contracted Ebola. Fifty-eight percent of those have died, according to the most recent report from the World Health Organization.

Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC still must confirm the diagnosis, but that there was little doubt that there had been a failure of the supposedly rigid precautions health workers are to take when caring for a patient with the highly contagious disease.

“We don’t know what occurred in the care of (Duncan), but at some point, it was a breach in protocol and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection,” Frieden said in a briefing with reporters on Sunday. “If this individual was exposed, which they were, it is possible that other individuals were exposed,” Frieden said.