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US braces itself for more Ebola cases

ON ALERT: Emergency staff at a residential apartment after a second health-care worker tested positive for the Ebola virus in Dallas.


    Oct 16, 2014

    US braces itself for more Ebola cases


    THE Dallas County authorities are preparing for more possible Ebola cases as a second nurse who treated the first victim of Ebola diagnosed on United States soil was infected with the virus, a county official said yesterday.

    "We are preparing contingencies for more, and that is a very real possibility," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said at a news conference with local officials.

    A second Texas health-care worker tested positive for Ebola after treating a Liberian patient who died of the virus in Dallas, officials said yesterday.

    The woman's identity was not revealed by the health authorities, who said she came down with a fever on Tuesday and was isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. A test to confirm the presence of the virus is being done by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    "This is a heroic person, a person who has dedicated her life to helping others," said Judge Jenkins.

    The case follows the diagnosis on Sunday of nurse Nina Pham, who was closely involved in the care of Thomas Eric Duncan between Sept 28 and Oct 8, when he died.

    The Texas Department of State Health Services is monitoring 75 more health-care workers who may have become infected while caring for Mr Duncan or handling his blood specimens at the Dallas hospital.

    "It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better," Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a press conference.

    The latest patient lived alone and had no pets. People in the apartment complex where she lived were notified that one of their neighbours had come down with Ebola, Mr Rawlings said.

    Mr Duncan is thought to have contracted the disease while still in Liberia. He was the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States - and the first case diagnosed outside Africa.

    Ms Pham was the first person to contract Ebola in the US. She was described as being in "good condition" by the hospital on Tuesday.

    The world's largest outbreak of Ebola is spreading quickly across West Africa and has killed more than 4,400 people since the beginning of this year. The World Health Organisation said the death rate in the Africa outbreak has climbed to 70 per cent.

    The virus is spread through close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

    Nurses have protested against the CDC's assertion that a breach of protocol was to blame for the infection of Ms Pham.

    The health authorities have been unable to identify a problem with the way Ms Pham put on or removed her protective gear - which included a face shield, mask, glove and gown - but she is assisting the CDC investigation.

    "What happened there, regardless of the reason, is not acceptable," said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    Dr Fauci said the health authorities are taking new measures to boost hospitals' preparedness, including sending to Dallas experts who have managed to control Ebola outbreaks in Africa over the past two decades.

    The CDC said it is improving procedures to protect health-care workers at the Dallas hospital, and providing health workers there and elsewhere with opportunities for more training.