Health Care

Second test confirms KCK man does not have Ebola

Ebola virus
Ebola virus CDC

A second lab test has confirmed that a Kansas City, Kan., man admitted to the University of Kansas Hospital on Monday does not have Ebola, the hospital said Wednesday.

The man was being moved to lower level isolation, the hospital said.

The second test was conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That news may bring a sigh of relief to Kansas City, but across the nation Ebola anxiety is running high, even though only three cases have been diagnosed in the U.S. so far — including a second one involving a Dallas nurse.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in recent days found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about a widespread Ebola epidemic in the United States. More than 40 percent of respondents said they are “very” or “somewhat worried” about the possibility that they or immediate family members might catch the virus even though the virus is far less contagious than common illnesses like the flu. Ebola becomes contagious only after its symptoms appear, and the virus is transmitted only through contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or saliva.

A chorus of mostly Republican politicians, including Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, has called on President Barack Obama to ban travel from the three West African nations — Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia — where almost 9,000 people have contracted Ebola and more than 4,400 have died in an ongoing epidemic. Obama has tightened airport screenings of travelers from those countries, both in Africa and the U.S., but has resisted banning travel.

Meanwhile, the public’s fear of flying has escalated and turned passengers who are ill and African into suspected Ebola carriers. In recent days, teams in hazmat suits have escorted passengers off airliners landing in Boston and Newark, N.J. A plane was quarantined at the Las Vegas airport until Ebola was ruled out as the reason a passenger became ill. Similar incidents have occurred at airports in Midland, Texas, Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn.

Although hospitals in Kansas City and nationwide have repeatedly expressed confidence in their ability to handle Ebola, the public’s trust has been shaken in recent days by a series of missteps at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

First, the hospital failed to admit a man with Ebola symptoms and a travel history to Africa when he first came to its emergency room. That man, Thomas Eric Duncan, later died of Ebola at the hospital.

Then a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian who cared for Duncan developed Ebola, caused by what the CDC termed a “breach in protocol” in the procedures followed for protecting health care workers from infection. The nurse, Nina Pham, 26, has received a transfusion from a doctor who recovered from Ebola in hopes that antibodies in his blood will speed her recovery.

On Wednesday, word came that a second Dallas nurse caught the disease from Duncan and flew across the Midwest aboard an airliner the day before she fell ill.

The second nurse was identified as 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson. Medical records provided to The Associated Press by Duncan’s family showed she inserted catheters, drew blood and dealt with Duncan’s body fluids.

Kent State University in Ohio, where three of Vinson’s relatives work, confirmed she was the latest patient.

Even though the nurse did not report having a fever until Tuesday, the day after she returned home, she should not have boarded an airliner after learning that Pham had been diagnosed with Ebola, government officials said Wednesday.

Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said no one else involved in Duncan’s care will be allowed to travel “other than in a controlled environment.”

Infected Ebola patients are not considered contagious until they have symptoms. Frieden said it was unlikely that other passengers or airline crew members were at risk because the nurse did not have any vomiting or bleeding.

Even so, the CDC is alerting the 132 passengers aboard Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday “because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning.” Officials are asking them to call the health agency so they can be monitored. The woman flew from Dallas to Cleveland on Oct. 10.

Kent State said it was asking the workers related to Vinson to stay off campus for 21 days “out of an abundance of caution.”

The nurse reported a fever Tuesday and was in isolation within 90 minutes, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

“We are looking at every element of our personal protection equipment and infection control in the hospital,” said Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, which operates Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

The second nurse will be transferred to a special bio-containment unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where other Ebola patients have been successfully treated, Frieden said. Pham will be monitored in Dallas to determine the best place for her care, Frieden said.

The CDC has acknowledged that the government was not aggressive enough in managing Ebola and containing the virus as it spread from an infected patient to a nurse at a Dallas hospital.

The patient at KU, a man in his 40s, was a medical officer on a commercial ship off the coast of West Africa. The man treated patients for a variety of ailments and was exposed to typhoid fever, an infectious disease that shares some of the symptoms of Ebola, such as fever, diarrhea and vomiting. The man called the hospital after returning home. On Monday morning, he was met at the hospital’s emergency department and taken to an isolation room.

Star news services contributed to this report.

To reach Alan Bavley, call 816-234-4858 or send email to abavley@kcstar.com.

  Comments