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Nurse with Ebola warned CDC of high temperature before boarding flight

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Officials begin contacting 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines flight, but stress that the chance of infection is low

Frederick A. Murphy / CDC

The second nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US warned health officials of her high fever before boarding a flight from Cleveland to Dallas, according to a report today from Bloomberg. Officials say the chance of transmission is low, though they are nevertheless contacting at least 132 people who flew on the same Frontier Airlines flight, as well as three people she saw during her stay in Cleveland.

The nurse, 29-year-old Amber Vinson, was among those who provided care to Ebola patient Thomas Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Before flying back to Dallas after a three-day stay in Cleveland, she informed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that she had a temperature of 99.5 degrees. CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds tells Bloomberg that her temperature was below the agency's threshold for people who have been exposed to Ebola, noting that the mark was lowered in recent weeks from 101.5 degrees to 100.4 degrees. CDC director Thomas Frieden told reporters yesterday that Vinson should not have taken a commercial flight, though he stressed that she would have posed an "extremely low" risk to those she traveled with.

"No one wants to get this right more than our hospital."

"She did not vomit and she was not bleeding," Frieden said, though he declined to say whether Vinson had been told to stay in Cleveland and did not elaborate on any other guidance she received.

News of Vinson's travels come amid increased scrutiny over the way Texas Presbyterian has managed its staff in recent weeks. Yesterday, it was reported that health care workers treating Duncan did not wear the necessary protective equipment, raising the risk of further infections. Earlier this week, another nurse tested positive for Ebola after providing care to Duncan, who died on October 8th.

"We're a hospital that may have done things different with the benefit of what we know today," Dr. Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health Resources, told reporters this week. "But make no mistake: No one wants to get this right more than our hospital, the first to diagnose and treat this insidious disease."

The CDC is now creating medical SWAT teams that it says will respond more rapidly to future infections, and is implementing broader national protocols for hospitals to follow. National Nurses United is urging the White House to implement stricter training and guidelines at hospitals, including mandates for protective gear.