Ebola patient Nina Pham to be transferred to Maryland facility

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(CNN) -- Dallas Ebola patient Nina Pham will be transferred to a National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Pham, the first nurse infected, will be transferred to a National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland, according to two sources familiar with the situation. She is now being cared for in Dallas at the same hospital where she worked and where she contracted the virus from a patient she treated, Thomas Eric Duncan.

Duncan had traveled from Liberia to Texas in September. He died of the virus at the hospital in early October.

Dr. Daniel Varga, the chief clinical officer for Texas Health Services, blasted Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas Thursday for mishandled Duncan's case. The Liberian national was initially sent home from the facility even though he had a fever and told a worker he was from Liberia.

He came back to the hospital two days later, was tested for Ebola and was then hospitalized.

"Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes," Varga said in written testimony to U.S. lawmakers with the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry."

Varga said hospital staffers were given guidance on Ebola symptoms several times over the summer.

He said the hospital has made several policy changes regarding the virus, such as updating the emergency department screening process to require asking a patient for his or her travel history and increasing training for staffers.

Nurse: 'We never talked about Ebola'

Another Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurse is speaking out, telling NBC's "Today" show Thursday that nurses did not have mandatory Ebola training, except for an optional seminar that didn't allow them any hands-on practice.

"We never talked about Ebola. We never had a discussion," Briana Aguirre said.

She said she was not involved in treating Duncan, who received care at the hospital in late September and died there on October 8.

Training for Texas Health Presbyterian's nursing staff amounted to "just information," she said. "We were never told what to look for."

"All I know for sure is that he (Duncan) was put into an area where there are around seven other patients," she said. "We took around three hours to make first contact with CDC to let them know what we had of our suspicion. There were no special precautions other than basic contact precautions. No special gear."

She said the hospital did not know what to do with one of his lab specimens.

A lab technician told Aguirre the specimen was "mishandled," she said. "It was a chaotic scene."

She said there was an effort to contact the hospital's infectious disease expert to determine the correct Ebola treatment protocol.

"Their answer was, 'We don't know. We will have to call you back,' " she said.

Hospital fires back after claims

After scathing allegations by a nurses' union, a Texas Health Presbyterian spokeswoman said some of the care givers' claims are not true.

Citing interviews with nurses at the hospital, the union National Nurses United have said Duncan was "left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present" during his second visit to the hospital.

But hospital spokeswoman Candace White said Duncan "was moved directly to a private room and placed in isolation" during his second visit.

And after the union claimed "there was no one to pick up hazardous waste as it piled to the ceiling," White said the waste was "well-contained in accordance with standards, and it was located in safe and containable locations."

Government might ground Texas hospital workers

The federal government is weighing putting those who treated Duncan on a list that would prohibit them from flying commercially, an official familiar with the situation told Elizabeth Cohen, CNN's senior medical correspondent.

In June 2007, federal agencies developed a public health Do Not Board list, which allowed domestic and international public health officials to request that people with communicable diseases who meet specific criteria and pose a serious threat to the public be restricted from taking commercial flights departing from or arriving in the United States. The CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security manage the Do Not Board list.

The CDC is considering lowering the fever threshold that would be considered a possible sign of Ebola, the official also told CNN. The current threshold is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).

The second Ebola-stricken nurse in Texas, Amber Vinson, flew home from Cleveland to Dallas while she had a fever.

Before she boarded, Vinson called the CDC to report that she had a temperature of 99.5 Fahrenheit, a federal official told CNN, and she was not told she shouldn't get on the plane. However, it's unknown what exactly she was told.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said Vinson shouldn't have flown because she helped care for Duncan, and because another health worker who cared for him already had been diagnosed with the virus.

He said there's an "extremely low" risk to anyone else on that plane, but the agency is reaching out to everyone on the flight as part of "extra margins of safety."

Vinson, 29, is now being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which has successfully treated two other Ebola patients and has not had any employees infected.

Ex-DOT official: Airlines don't have adequate guidance

The CDC should be blamed for not providing airlines with clear guidelines on dealing with possible Ebola on flights, said Mary Schiavo, a CNN aviation analyst and a former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general. She is considered an expert on the Federal Aviation Administration.

She said Thursday on CNN that airlines were given "very vague" guidelines from the CDC a month ago that flight attendants should, for example, try to wipe up as much "wet material" as possible in an effort to protect against possible Ebola.

Airlines do not have Ebola-trained cleaning crews, Schiavo said. "There's no federal regulation that requires you to even wipe the tray table," she said.

Vinson never should have been cleared to board, she insisted.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Celine Gounder agreed. It's "ridiculous" to determine whether someone should fly based on a specific temperature, she said on CNN.

If people are exposed to Ebola, particularly if they've treated an Ebola patient, then they should not be allowed to fly, Gounder said.

Vinson "should have been in quarantine," the doctor said.

Vinson sent to Emory

Staffing issues at the Texas hospital have led to the decision to transfer Vinson to Emory, a federal official told Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent.

"What we're hearing is that they are worried about staffing issues and a possible walkout of nurses," the official said.

Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas continues to treat Nina Pham, the first Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola. Pham also treated Duncan at the hospital.

Pham remains in good condition, officials said. There's no decision yet on whether she will be transferred to another facility.

Hospital employees can quarantine themselves

With two of its own nurses infected with Ebola, Texas Health Presbyterian said it will allow any concerned employee to have a hospital room.

"Texas Health Dallas is offering a room to any of our impacted employees who would like to stay here to avoid even the remote possibility of any potential exposure to family, friends and the broader public," the hospital said in a statement.

"We are doing this for our employees' peace of mind and comfort. This is not a medical recommendation. We will make available to our employees who treated Mr. Duncan a room in a separate part of the hospital throughout their monitoring period."

Several Texas and Ohio schools close

News of Vinson's travel on a Frontier Airlines plane led to school closures in two states.

In Texas, a few schools in the Belton Independent School District are closed Thursday because two students were on the same flight as Vinson from Cleveland to Dallas -- Frontier Airlines Flight 1143, the superintendent said.

And in Ohio, two schools in the Solon School District in suburban Cleveland are closed Thursday because a staffer "traveled home from Dallas on Frontier Airlines Tuesday on a different flight, but perhaps the same aircraft" as Vinson, the school district said in a statement.

"Although we believe what the science community and public health officials are telling us about the low risk of possible transmission of the virus through indirect contact, we are nonetheless taking the unusual step of closing the dual school building for Thursday so that we can have the schools cleaned and disinfected," the statement said.

Frontier Airlines grounds six crew members

The school districts aren't the only ones concerned about Vinson's travels.

Frontier Airlines placed six crew members on paid leave for 21 days "out of an abundance of caution," CEO David Siegel wrote in a letter to employees.

The airline also removed the plane's seat covers and carpet near where the infected passenger sat, even though it had not been asked to by the CDC, Siegel said.

Meanwhile, four major U.S. airports will begin enhanced screenings for Ebola on Thursday. They are Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.

Another patient's progress

Ashoka Mukpo, the American NBC freelance cameraman who contracted Ebola in Liberia, is "getting better every day," said Taylor Wilson, a spokesman for Nebraska Medical Center.

Mukpo's condition, Taylor said Thursday, is heading "in the right direction."

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, Dave Alsup, Rene Marsh, Miriam Falco, Victoria Kennedy, Devon Sayers and Matthew Stucker contributed to this report.

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2 comments

  • Penelope Lincoln

    Why are the nurses at this Texas hospital blaming the hospital for them not knowing the proper precautions to take when caring for someone with Ebola?
    That is absolutely pathetic on the nurses part. As far as I’m concerned any of the nurses who complained about the hospital not telling them “how to” should be fired.
    I’m almost 100% positive every nurse has a smart phone on them or able to log into the hospitals computer system. Instead if looking at their Facebook or Instagram account they could have and SHOULD HAVE looked up Ebola precautions. I know they look up everything else mostly things that have absolutely zero to do with how to do their job.
    How do I know? Because I WAS a nurse for 20+years. I left nursing because I started to notice with each new nurse hire they didn’t have the ability to think on their feet-have some common sense. Yes, they may be book smart but that isn’t going to prevent Ebola from being spread if they don’t have common sense to realize they should over protect themselves and the patient until they know exactly what is going on.
    If I had a patient with Ebola it wouldn’t bother me even if I didn’t know anything about it. I would protect myself from head to toe an this would also help protect the patient from getting a nosocomial infection. Which is an infection that usually will cause someone’s demise if they are compromised by a disease or disorder.
    Why do you think they don’t keep people in the hospital for longer periods like they use to…..
    It isn’t because medicine has gotten that much better it is because people have become lazy and don’t care. Usually alls it takes is for anyone who comes in contact with a patient to wash their hands before and after each patient plus use the germicidal hand gel AFTER each hand washing-but germicidal hand gel is used instead of hand washing all the time. I won’t let my doctor or nurse or anyone touch me unless I see that they have washed their hands. How rediculous is it that patients have to brow beat adults to wash their hands?
    Along with the hand washing is make sure housekeeping is cleaning with the proper cleanser-not a bucket full of piss smelling germ water. One time I was in a hospital for major surgery and housekeeping came at 2am(which is bull to begin with) but as this fellow is swishing his mop around the floor I noticed the odor of pee becoming overwhelming. I knew it wasn’t me and I didn’t have a roommate at the time either. I asked the fellow nicely to please change the water he had in his bucket because of the smell and his response was “I’m supposed to clean 20 room floors before changing the water and you are only room 10.”
    That is like using a cloth to wipe my toilet then taking it to 20 other houses and wipe their toilets with it. NASTY!
    People always are quick to blame someone else instead of using their brain. Regardless if the CDC said it was okay to fly or not common sense would have been to stay home and let the hospital you work for know that somehow YOU messed up and contaminated yourself. This person is a nurse who is trained to help people get better from illnesses, surgery and save lives when needed to- I doubt she knows the basic of CPR since she didn’t know the basics of Universal Precautions. Of course, this is the hospitals fault because they only held an informal meeting about it and not a mandatory, you will get your hourly wage to attend, meeting on how to use your brain that God gave you!

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