First Dallas Nurse With Ebola to Be Transferred to NIH

Troy Brown, RN

October 16, 2014

Nina Pham, the first nurse to be stricken by Ebola virus infection after caring for a patient in a Dallas, Texas, hospital who later died, was expected to be transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on October 16, according to a statement from the NIH. The NIH Clinical Center's Specialty Clinical Studies Unit is one of four high-level containment facilities in the United States specifically equipped to care for patients with Ebola virus infection.

Pham was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on October 11 after she developed symptoms of Ebola virus infection. She had cared for Thomas Eric Duncan at the same hospital during his hospitalization from September 28 until he died on October 8.

According to a hospital statement, transferring Pham "is the right decision. With many of the medical professionals who would normally staff the intensive care unit sidelined for continuous monitoring, it is in the best interest of the hospital employees, nurses, physicians and the community to give the hospital an opportunity to prepare for whatever comes next."

On October 15, a second nurse on Duncan's care team, Amber Joy Vinson, was admitted to that hospital with the virus; she was transferred later that day to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Emory is another of the specialty facilities in the United States. On the day before she was hospitalized, she flew on an airplane from Cleveland, Ohio, to Dallas. She reportedly had a temperature of 99.5°F and was told by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that she could fly.

Nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas have charged that the hospital failed to prepare in advance for Ebola virus infection and provided inadequate personal protective equipment for staff to use while providing patient care. They say that nurses and other patients were exposed to the virus as a result. The hospital denies these charges, saying that they followed CDC guidelines at all times.

The CDC has come under scrutiny recently regarding these guidelines, which some say are inadequate. Among those questioning the CDC's guidelines is Ken Isaacs, the vice president of Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian organization whose workers have been extensively involved in caring for patients with Ebola virus infection in West Africa, according to an interview in The Hill.

Specifically, Isaacs says that the CDC's guidelines are less stringent than those of Samaritan's Purse and other organizations working in West Africa. Samaritan's Purse workers must wear two pairs of gloves and leave no skin exposed. Workers are required to spray themselves with disinfectant twice before they leave the isolation ward and adhere to a 3-foot "no touch" policy.

In addition, Isaacs believes the CDC should have isolated and closely monitored all healthcare workers who cared for Duncan for 21 days, during which time those workers should have reported their temperature four times daily.

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