For the first two days of Thomas Duncan's stay at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, healthcare professionals didn't wear the necessary protective gear. This gear usually includes goggles and a face mask, but staffers reportedly stuck to their scrubs and gloves while waiting for Duncan's Ebola test results. This delay may have exposed dozens of hospital staffers to Ebola, reports Dallas News. It may also explain why two healthcare workers who were caring for Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the US, have now been diagnosed with the disease.
They only wore scrubs and gloves while waiting for Duncan's test results
Duncan, a Liberian citizen who died on 8 October, was admitted to the hospital in Dallas on 28 September because of a suspected Ebola infection. Upon his admission, his doctors made him take a blood test that didn't return results until 30 September. During that time, Duncan's caregivers didn't wear protective gear recommended by the CDC. Eventually, they were offered face masks and shields, reports the CDC, but the guidelines they were given kept changing.
"[Hospital officials] kept adding more protective equipment as the patient [Duncan] deteriorated. They had masks first, then face shields, then the positive-pressure respirator," Pierre Rollin, a CDC epidemiologist, told The Washington Post. Then, "they added a second pair of gloves" — a practice that CDC director Tom Frieden doesn't recommend because wearing two pairs make them harder to remove.
This raises the likelihood that more hospital workers will be diagnosed with Ebola in the coming days. According to hospital officials, a total of 70 hospital workers cared for Duncan before his death, but they have yet to reveal how many were involved in treating Duncan during those first two days.
Yesterday, the CDC announced new guidelines for protective equipment. These include wearing a hood that covers the neck area — a part of the body that was previously exposed. The CDC has also sent a team to Dallas to oversee the care of Nina Pham, the 26-year-old nurse that marked the first case of Ebola transmission in the US, as well as the treatment of an unidentified female hospital worker who's infection was revealed earlier this morning.
70 hospital workers cared for Duncan before his death
So far, the Ebola outbreak has been concentrated in three African countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. A total of 8,400 have been infected, and more than 4,000 have died. Ebola can be controlled through hand-washing, and by using gloves and other barriers to prevent contact with infectious bodily fluids. Only direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is showing symptoms of Ebola spreads the disease. Ebola isn't airborne.