Dozens in Dallas Said to Be Free of Ebola Risk

News Picture: Dozens in Dallas Said to Be Free of Ebola RiskBy Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Some good news arrived Monday on the Ebola front in the United States: Dozens of people who had contact with the Dallas patient who died earlier this month are no longer in danger of catching the disease, health officials said.

Those people include the fiancee and other family members of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian native who contracted the disease in his home country before arriving in Dallas last month.

Also cleared were the paramedics who drove Duncan to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 28 and health care workers who drew or processed his blood. And a mandatory quarantine was lifted for a homeless man who later rode in the same ambulance as Duncan before it was disinfected, The New York Times reported.

All told, the 21-day monitoring period ended Sunday and Monday for roughly 50 people, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials are planning to tighten recommendations for health care workers treating Ebola patients.

The new guidelines, which haven't been formally unveiled, are expected to include recommendations for full-body suits and hoods "with no skin showing." There will also be stricter rules for removing equipment and disinfecting hands, and the designation of a "site manager" to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment used while treating a patient, the Associated Press reported.

The revised guidelines are apparently in response to two nurses in Dallas who became infected with Ebola while treating Duncan, the first diagnosed case of the disease in the United States.

Health officials aren't sure how the nurses became infected with the often deadly disease, which has decimated three West African nations since last spring.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that the nurses caring for Duncan had some of their skin exposed, the AP reported.

"Very clearly, when you go into a hospital, have to intubate somebody, have all of the body fluids, you've got to be completely covered. So, that's going to be one of the things," the news service quoted Fauci as saying.

Also Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the creation of a 30-member team of military personnel to assist civilian medical professionals in the United States if its assistance is needed to treat Ebola. The team will include doctors, nurses and infectious disease experts, the AP reported.

To date, there have been three cases of Ebola in the United States: the two nurses and Duncan.

Early Sunday morning, a cruise ship carrying a lab worker who was being monitored for Ebola because she'd handled a lab specimen from Duncan returned to its port in Galveston, Texas, cruise line officials said.

The unidentified woman is a laboratory manager at Texas Health Presbyterian. She had been voluntarily quarantined aboard the Carnival ship with her husband. She was showing no signs of symptoms of the disease and posed no risk because she has been symptomless for 19 days, federal officials said, according to the AP.

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

Carnival Cruise Lines said it had been told by health officials Sunday morning that the lab worker tested negative for Ebola, the news service said.

And Spanish health authorities reported Sunday that a nurse's aide who had become infected with Ebola while caring for an elderly priest was free of the virus.

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

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.

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.

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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; The New York Times; Associated Press