In Ebola fight, U.S. takes precautions as Spanish nurse’s assistant fights for life

Posted at 1:37 PM, Oct 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-09 13:38:04-04

(CNN) — A day after the first Ebola death on American soil, the focus intensifies on those infected in Europe and a possible new case in the United States.

And there are big questions about preparation and prevention: How will airport screening work? Are cities and towns trained to recognize and do the right thing if someone goes into health care centers exhibiting Ebola symptoms?

In the U.S., attention is focused Thursday on a sheriff’s deputy in Dallas who was in an apartment where Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan lived for a short time as he began to show signs of the deadly virus. Duncan died a little over a week after his treatment began at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

A patient believed to be the deputy — named as Sgt. Michael Monnig by local media — had “some contact” with Duncan’s family members who are being monitored for signs of Ebola, according to Frisco Fire Chief Mark Piland.

Monnig’s son told CNN affiliate KTVT that his father woke up Wednesday with a stomachache and feeling sore and tired — symptoms that Ebola can cause.

Texas Health Presbyterian said it received a patient “after reporting possible exposure to the Ebola virus.”

“Right now, there are more questions than answers about this case,” the hospital said. “Our professional staff of nurses and doctors is prepared to examine the patient, discuss any findings with appropriate agencies and officials.”

The hospital has not said if the deputy is being tested for Ebola.

On Wednesday, Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the patient “does not have either definite contact with Ebola or definite symptoms of Ebola.”

A Texas health official agreed, saying that the deputy is at “no risk of Ebola” because he didn’t have direct contact with Duncan.

“We know he didn’t have direct contact with the patient (Duncan) and he doesn’t have a fever, and in a situation like that, there is no risk of Ebola,” said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

However, the sweat-stained sheets that Duncan used were still in the apartment last Thursday, along with his family members, Duncan’s partner Louise Troh told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. They have since been moved and the apartment cleaned by authorities, which is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

Ebola spreads through infected bodily fluids.

Frieden said Thursday that except for the AIDS epidemic, he’s seen nothing like the Ebola outbreak.

He is meeting in Washington with leaders from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to discuss the global epidemic, which has killed more than 3,400 people in those countries.

Spanish nurse’s assistant takes turn for worse

The condition of Teresa Romero Ramos, the nurse’s assistant in Madrid who has Ebola, has worsened, Yolanda Fuentes, deputy medical director of the city’s Carlos III Hospital, told reporters outside the facility Thursday.

Ramos asked that her condition be announced, Fuentes said, though Fuentes declined to give details about how the nurse’s assistant’s health had deteriorated.

How Ramos’ case was handled from the beginning has sparked concern. A week after she went to see a doctor about feeling sick, she tested positive for the virus. And yet, even after her test result came back at Madrid’s Alcorcon hospital, she had to wait for eight hours in an emergency room — exposed to other patients and medical staff — before she was transferred to another hospital that specializes in infectious diseases, according to a worker at Alcorcon.

Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato has told Parliament that Spain is going to revise its protocols for handling Ebola.

Preparations in New York

In the fight to contain Ebola, there’s at least one unusual measure being taken in New York City.

On Thursday morning, Dr. Ross Wilson, the chief medical officer for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, said on CNN that actors are being hired to go to health care facilities to fake symptoms of Ebola to test how well staffs identify and isolate possible cases.

“We take a standard script,” he said, and the actors “arrive at an emergency department and see staff unaware that these patients are not real patients.”

This acting lasts for about an hour and the scenario ends, Wilson said. “The important part is we then sit down in a very structured way to debrief and learn,” he said. “We’ve been gratified that most things have gone right, but there are a lot of human beings in this process, and they all have to come together in the same way every time, with every patient.”

New York City has 11 emergency departments that see more than a million patients a year, he said.

Also Thursday, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Dr. Mary Bassett, the New York City Department of Health commissioner, about Ebola preparations.

She said that authorities have reached out to the city’s large West African population to help educate them about the virus, how it is transmitted and what to look for in case they believe they or someone they know might have it.

The health department has received 88 phone calls from people in the area who have concerns and questions about the virus — calls that those people were urged to make by doctors treating them.

There have been no cases that merit an Ebola test, Bassett said.

The department is prepared to quarantine people if necessary, she said. Cuomo asked her if quarantine space has been identified, and she replied that people can be isolated in their own homes.

New York would essentially follow guidelines set for by the CDC, including an official investigation to find who came into contact with an infected person and the monitoring of any contacts for 21 days during Ebola’s incubation period.

Bassett urged for calm. “This is a scary infection, but we know how to stop it” from spreading, she said.

Airport screening coming

The CDC said five airports across the U.S. are increasing measures to help contain Ebola.

Travelers arriving in the U.S. who have recently gone to the Ebola-ravaged West African countries Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia will have their temperatures taken.

Screening will begin Saturday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and then next week at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, Newark Liberty International Airport in northern New Jersey, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.