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Dozens Declared Free of Ebola Risk in Texas
Date Posted: 20/Oct/2014
 
At Summa Akron City Hospital, Sheri Eichorn, left, and Debbi Anders, both nurses, practiced their responses to an Ebola threat in Akron, Ohio. Credit Dustin Franz for NYTimes
 
At least one chapter of the Ebola saga neared a close Sunday, as most of the dozens of people who had direct or indirect contact here with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola, had been told by officials that they were no longer at risk of contracting the disease.
 
Mr. Duncan’s fiancée, Louise Troh, who nursed him in their cramped apartment while he suffered from diarrhea and who was put under state-ordered quarantine, was set to be declared Ebola-free by officials at the end of Sunday.
 
So, too, were the paramedics who drove an ailing Mr. Duncan to a hospital 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 Mr. Duncan before it was disinfected.
 
The 21-day monitoring period ended Sunday and Monday for nearly all the roughly 50 people. It concludes as federal health officials are tightening the guidelines for the protective gear worn by health care workers treating Ebola patients.
 
 
Timelines of the three people in Dallas who have been diagnosed with Ebola. Full Q. and A. »
 
Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who treated Mr. Duncan — Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson — have contracted Ebola. Although officials have not determined how they became infected, they have focused on their use of personal protective gear.
 
In an appearance on Sunday on the news talk show “Meet the Press,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the federal National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said new federal guidelines for hospitals will be issued requiring personal protective equipment that completely covers all parts of the skin. He said the previous recommendations were based on a World Health Organization protocol designed for treating people in Africa and not for American hospital settings.
 
“It became clear that we needed to modify that protocol where no part of the body is exposed,” Dr. Fauci said.
 
At the Pentagon, officials announced they were forming a 30-person military medical team to respond to any additional Ebola cases in the United States and “provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals.”
 
Relatives of Ms. Vinson, one of the nurses treated, released a statement Sunday that said she was cleared to travel by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before her Oct. 10 flight from Dallas to Cleveland, and by Dallas County health officials before her Oct. 13 return flight from Cleveland to Dallas. Before boarding her return flight, she reported her temperature three times, and each time was cleared to fly, her family said.
 
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the C.D.C., had publicly stated that because Ms. Vinson was being monitored, she should not have boarded the return flight, although it later became clear the agency had allowed her to fly.
 
“Suggestions that she ignored any of the physician and government-provided protocols recommended to her are patently untrue and hurtful,” the statement read. “She has not and would not knowingly expose herself or anyone else,” it added.
 
In a statement, Ms. Troh expressed relief that the Ebola threat in the Texas cases was drawing to a close, but sadness over the death of Mr. Duncan: “We are so happy this is coming to an end, and we are so grateful that none of us has shown any sign of illness,” Ms. Troh said in the statement. “We have lost so much, but we have our lives and we have our faith in God, which always gives us hope. Even though the quarantine is over, our time of mourning is not over. Because of that, we ask to be given privacy as we seek to rebuild our home, our family and our daily living.”
 
Ms. Troh — along with her 13-year-old son, Timothy, and the two young men who shared the apartment with her and Mr. Duncan — were removed from the contaminated apartment several days after Mr. Duncan was hospitalized. They were moved to a residence provided by a local benefactor.
 
Local leaders and Ms. Troh’s pastor, the Rev. George Mason, had been looking for a place for them to move but had trouble finding a landlord willing to rent to them. They appeared to have found a single-family rental home for them to move into temporarily. Their old apartment was gutted, and many of their personal belongings were incinerated. “What she wants more than anything else is to get out of there with those boys and, in her language, be an American,” the pastor said. “She’s an American and she wants to live her life and be respected because she’s done nothing wrong.”
 
An unnamed Dallas philanthropist plans to donate tens of thousands of dollars to Ms. Troh, the officials said.
 
Michael Wayne Lively, 52, never met Mr. Duncan, but he rode in Ambulance No. 37, and that was all it took to drastically change his life for three weeks. Paramedics used that ambulance to ferry Mr. Duncan to Presbyterian on Sept. 28, but before it was taken out of service and decontaminated, they answered the call to pick up Mr. Lively. Originally from Lumberton, Miss., Mr. Lively has been a homeless drifter in Dallas for years. After Mr. Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola, Mr. Lively was being monitored but went missing for a time, spreading fear throughout Dallas that a man at risk of Ebola was wandering the city. He was found, and handed a state-issued order forbidding him to leave Presbyterian hospital and to receive visitors without prior approval.
 
The order — known as a communicable disease control order — was similar to the one handed Ms. Troh and the three others in the apartment. If Mr. Lively and the others did not comply, they were threatened with criminal prosecution or civil court proceedings. Officials said a total of seven people have received the orders in Dallas — Ms. Troh and the three others; Mr. Lively; and two community members. All of those whose monitoring was coming to an end had been potentially exposed to Mr. Duncan before he was admitted and put into isolation at the hospital on Sept. 28. They have been released from monitoring in stages. At least 14 of them had been released by Saturday. Others were released Sunday afternoon and some, like Ms. Troh, were released midnight Sunday. A few others may be released after Monday, officials said.
 
“It’s a significant hurdle for us to get over,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “It brings a little bounce in our step, because we know the science is working.”
 
The Ebola virus has an average eight-day to 10-day incubation period, but federal health officials recommend monitoring exposed people for symptoms for 21 days.
 
Dozens of others continue to be monitored. On Sunday, federal officials released updated numbers and said they were monitoring 149 people total, including the contacts of Mr. Duncan as well of Ms. Pham and Ms. Vinson. Most of those 149 are health care workers who treated Mr. Duncan. But some of them are passengers on a Frontier Airlines flight that Ms. Vinson took from Cleveland to Dallas the day before she showed symptoms. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said passengers on that flight, and those on Ms. Vinson’s first flight from Dallas to Cleveland, were at low risk.
 
Ohio health officials reported Sunday that they had been in touch with 153 people across 16 counties who might have contacted Ms. Vinson during her visit there around the time Ms. Pham was diagnosed, but before it was determined that she, too, had Ebola. None of the 153 had been diagnosed with Ebola, but three were under quarantine, the state reported. It was unclear whether the Ohio numbers were included in or separate from the federal monitoring.
 
At Summa Akron City Hospital, workers have been practicing their response to an Ebola case. In addition to planned drills, doctors said, there have already been two false alarms in which Summa patients believed themselves to be at risk for Ebola but turned out not to be.
 
In Spain, officials said Sunday that tests showed that a nursing assistant who had been infected with Ebola has no traces of the virus left in her bloodstream. The medical worker, Teresa Romero, 44, contracted Ebola after caring for priests who got Ebola while doing missionary work in West Africa. Officials said Ms. Romero must undergo at least one more Ebola test to make sure she is virus free.
 
By MANNY FERNANDEZ and KEVIN SACKOCT
Frances Robles contributed reporting from Dallas, and Mitch Smith from Akron, Ohio.
Source: NYTimes

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