News has spread on social media that a second Dallas nurse known to be infected with the Ebola virus took a flight to Cleveland while experiencing a low grade fever—an early symptom of the disease.

It turns out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules lead Amber Vinson to continue with her travel plans.

According to the government spokesperson, when Vinson called in, the staff she talked with looked on the CDC website for guidance. At the time, the category for “uncertain risk” had guidance saying that a person could fly commercially if they did not meet the threshold of a temperature of 100.4

So, she did.

This situation underscores the biggest failure of the current response to the American Ebola situation: People are desperately clutching to the “it’s not easily transmissible” mantra. The problem is that Ebola’s origins, modes of transmission, and rate of infection are not completely understood.

Ebola is listed as a Class 4 Pathogen, per the CDC’s own site:

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Two of the most common bloodborne pathogens with which most people are familiar are the Hepatitis B Virus (which can sometimes cause fatal liver damage) and HIV (which leads to AIDS). Hepatis B Virus is a Class 2 pathogen, and HIV rates as a Class 3. Good precautions have been developed over the years to successfully protect healthcare workers from contracting these diseases.

Yet, it seems the style of training and nature of protection was not changed when dealing with the higher risks associated with Ebola when it was first encountered in Dallas. A review of the allegations of the nurses union regarding the treatment of America’s Patient Zero, Thomas Duncan, demonstrates the problems with this approach:

Claim: The nurses’ protective gear left their necks exposed

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.

Claim: Nurses got no ‘hands-on’ training

“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.

The nurses have every right to be worried. Ebola has already claimed the lives of over 200 doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers since June; and while close contact with bodily fluids is the likeliest mode of transmission, aerosols of bodily fluids count — especially if such sprays hit the eyes, mouth, or cuts/abrasions on skin.

The highly respected Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota just advised the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) that “there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles,” including exhaled breath.

CIDRAP is warning that surgical facemasks do not prevent transmission of Ebola, and healthcare professionals (HCP) must immediately be outfitted with full-hooded protective gear and powered air-purifying respirators.

As proof that more protective gear is needed for worker safety, this ABC News Video catches a glimpse of the transfer of Vinson to a flight to Atlanta for treatment at Emory Hospital, which has the containment areas necessary for Ebola-infected patients.

American video journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who was stricken with Ebola while on assignment for NBC in Liberia, is currently being treated for the virus at a hospital in Nebraska. He will receive blood transfusions from a doctor who survived Ebola, and a recent tweet indicates he is recovering. Meanwhile, his colleague broke her voluntary quarantine to go out to a New Jersey restaurant for soup.

The New Jersey Health Department issued a mandatory quarantine after NBC reporter Dr. Nancy Snyderman was reportedly seen getting takeout at a Hopewell eatery.

President Obama tried to allay the increasingly nervous American public by offering himself as an example:

“I want to use myself as an example so people have a sense of the science here. I shook hands with, hugged and kissed – not the doctors – but a couple of the nurses at Emory because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients. They followed the protocols, they knew what they were doing and I felt perfectly safe doing so. This is not a situation like the flu where the risks of a rapid spread of the disease are imminent.”

Yes, the nurses at Emory Hospital have the proper training and equipment, so he will probably be just fine. However, there are many passengers who were exposed to Vinson during her flight that have reasonable cause to be concerned.

Ebola is not a JV virus. Rapid, aggressive response and mandatory quarantines must be given serious consideration — both here and abroad.


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