CDC: Dallas Nurse Contracts Ebola Due to ‘Inadvertent Breach of Protocol’

Dr. Mark Lester

This past weekend in the Dallas/Fort Worth region was supposed to be all about the Texas/Oklahoma game at the U.S. mecca of fried food: the State Fair of Texas. We had great weather, but something was looming…and it wasn’t good.

North Texas has been a little hysterical lately given the goings-on of the past couple of weeks. A man named Thomas Eric Duncan left Liberia, came to Dallas, and brought with him the first confirmed U.S. case of Ebola. Regretfully, he lost that fight, but not before the hospital caring for him entered an ongoing PR battle.

Now, one of the nurses who did the caring has contracted the disease. And the hospital may have a case of the PR yips.

It broke like a California wildfire early Sunday morning, and for good reason. Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says the Texas hospital worker who had extensive contact with Thomas Eric Duncan before he died has now contracted the disease.

Frieden says the worker has a low level of virus and is being monitored. He says the diagnosis of the worker — who’s not identified — clearly shows that there was a breach of protocol.

Whoops. That is definitely a bad look when you have a nation monitoring this thing in fear, but this wasn’t the first “breach of protocol” from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Check out this snippet from AP:

Despite telling a nurse that he had recently been in Africa and displaying other symptoms that could indicate Ebola — fever, sharp headache and abdominal pain — the Liberian man who would become the only person to die from the disease in the U.S. underwent a battery of tests and was eventually sent home.

ebola protectionHe came back in a day with a 103 temperature and severe stomach pains, but he was sent home. One can imagine the kerfuffle that caused — and one side effect of the drama was a spotlight shining even brighter on the hospital that sent him home in the first place.

There was also a scare in-between those two confirmed cases — Michael Monnig, a Dallas County deputy sheriff who helped quarantine Duncan was feared to have contracted Ebola. He was cleared two days later, but the perception of carelessness behind the story just fanned the flames.

Many believe that things would not have spiraled so quickly out of control if the hospital had only paid closer attention to…yes, protocol. Frieden again:

“I think the fact that we don’t know of a breach in protocol is concerning, because clearly there was a breach in protocol. We have the ability to prevent a spread in Ebola.”

The nurse’s health is the top concern of the hospital. Ensuring the quarantine of the virus is a not-so-distant second. When the smoke clears from the aforementioned wildfire, someone needs to light a spark under the behinds of the hospital’s communications team, because the org’s crisis plan that has yet to be kicked into “drive.”