Cruise Ship Passenger Linked to Ebola Back on Shore

News Picture: Cruise Ship Passenger Linked to Ebola Back on ShoreBy Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Oct. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A cruise ship carrying a lab worker who was being monitored for Ebola returned to its Galveston, Texas, port early Sunday morning, cruise line officials said.

The unidentified woman, a laboratory manager at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, handled a lab specimen from the Liberian man who died from Ebola at the hospital earlier this month. She had been voluntarily quarantined aboard the Carnival Magic ship with her husband. She is showing no signs of symptoms of the disease and poses no risk because she has been symptomless for 19 days, federal officials said, according to the Associated Press.

Federal health officials have said that symptoms of Ebola show up within 21 days of exposure to the virus.

A cruise line spokesperson said the couple drove themselves home after leaving the ship, but offered no other details, the news service said.

The lab technician handled the sample from Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national and first patient ever diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. He died Oct. 8 at Texas Presbyterian Hospital. He became infected with the often deadly Ebola virus in Liberia -- one of three West African nations at the epicenter of the viral outbreak -- before arriving in Dallas last month to visit relatives.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama called on Americans not to give way to panic over Ebola. And he repeated his opposition to a travel ban for flights from the three affected countries in West Africa.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said Ebola "is a serious disease, but we can't give in to hysteria or fear -- because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need. We have to be guided by the science."

Some lawmakers have called for a travel ban, but Obama believes such a move would be counterproductive. "Trying to seal off an entire region of the world -- if that were even possible -- could actually make the situation worse," he said.

Obama's comments came a day after he appointed Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and a trusted White House adviser, as Ebola "czar."

Klain's role: to oversee the federal government's response to the small but anxiety-producing presence of the often lethal virus in the United States.

Klain had been out of public service since leaving Biden's office during Obama's first term. The White House said Klain would report to national security adviser Susan Rice and to homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco.

A lawyer, Klain also served as chief of staff for Vice President Al Gore.

Klain gained a reputation for skillful handling of high-stakes political challenges. For instance, he was the lead Democratic lawyer for Gore during the disputed 2000 presidential election recount, The New York Times reported.

On Thursday evening, Obama said "it may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person [to oversee the Ebola response], not because they [federal health officials] haven't been doing an outstanding job, really working hard on this issue, but they are also responsible for a whole bunch of other stuff."

Obama's announcement followed a Congressional subcommittee hearing where top federal health officials faced tough questions about their response to Ebola infections in the United States. The officials also defended their opposition to a ban on travelers from the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the sites of the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

To date, there has been one death and two infections from Ebola in the United States.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 4,500 people out of an estimated 9,000 reported cases, according to the World Health Organization.

Also Thursday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was widening its search for people who may have had contact with one of the nurses who treated Duncan at Texas Presbyterian Hospital. Nurse Amber Joy Vinson was part of the medical team that cared for Duncan.

Vinson traveled by plane on Oct. 10 from Dallas to Cleveland to visit family members and returned to Dallas on Oct. 13. She said she had a slight fever before boarding the return flight to Dallas, but family members said she had appeared "remote and unwell" while in Ohio over the weekend, the Times reported.

The CDC said it was tracking down passengers who took Frontier Airlines Flight 1142 from Dallas to Cleveland on Oct. 10. The agency had already been tracking passengers on her Oct. 13 flight back to Dallas.

CDC officials have said repeatedly that people infected with Ebola are not contagious until they show symptoms, such as fever and vomiting.

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SOURCES: Oct. 18, 2014, White House weekly address; Oct. 16, 2014, hearing, House of Representatives' House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; Associated Press; The New York Times

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