health care worker

Gov. Rick Perry in a press conference Friday recommended a ban on travel from countries affected by Ebola.

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

President William Powers Jr. announced Friday that a University student was on the same flight as a health care worker who has tested positive for the Ebola virus, but the student is not showing any symptoms.

According to Powers, the student was onboard Frontier Airlines flight 1143 on Oct. 13. Amber Vinson, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who was involved in the care of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, was also on board the flight and was later diagnosed with Ebola. Powers said in an email to the UT community that the student was not sitting near Vinson on the flight.

“The student was not seated in the zone of concern on the plane, is not showing any symptoms, is monitoring body temperature, and is in daily contact with health officials, according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Powers said in an email sent to the UT community. “The student has been fully compliant beyond the CDC recommendations for possible Ebola exposure.”

At a press conference Friday at Austin City Hall to discuss the matter, Philip Huang, medical director and health authority for the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department said out of an abundance of caution, the student is voluntarily restricting his or her own activities.

“This individual is very low-risk, and from a public health standpoint, there are no restrictions that have been recommended,” Huang said. “This is not someone who has Ebola.”

Currently, three people in total have been diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the U.S. Huang said as Ebola is transmitted through contact with blood and bodily fluids, and there is no evidence of the University student coming in contact with these substances.

“The people who have developed Ebola disease in Dallas were health care professionals that were [directly] dealing with the patient,” Huang said. “In that setting, that’s a whole lot more exposure.”

Powers said in his email that the student would be staying home from class at their private residence. He or she will not return to school until Nov. 3, according to Bob Harkins, associate vice president for campus safety and security, who also spoke at the press conference.

Harkins said he has already talked to some parents of University students with general concerns about the virus, and he anticipates there will be more calls. He said the University has an infectious disease plan that is revisited it every year in case of an endemic. 

“We visited it back in July, specifically to look at what were doing in the event that we did have an Ebola outbreak,” Harkins said.  “All of the agencies on campus – whether that’s Housing, or Student Affairs or the provost’s office – have specific tasks that they’ve gone through now to upgrade our perfection levels, as has the Medical Center. We feel that we’re about as ready as we can be to try and ward off any of the bad infections.”

This story has been updated since its original publication.

A health care worker in Dallas has tested positive for the Ebola virus, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Sunday. This is the second known case of the virus in the U.S., and, if the preliminary results are confirmed, it will be the first time the virus has been transmitted between humans in the U.S.

In a press conference Sunday, CDC Director Tom Frieden said the health care worker is a female nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. According to Frieden, the nurse had provided care and had “extensive contact” with Thomas Duncan, who died last week and was the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

Frieden said officials are examining the case to try and figure out what caused the nurse to contract the virus, since she was in full protective gear when caring for Duncan. 

“We don’t know what occurred in the care of the index patient, the original patient in Dallas, but, at some point, there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection,” Frieden said. 

Officials plan to examine kidney dialysis and respiratory intubation, which were both performed on Duncan, as procedures in which the virus might have spread.

According to a press release from the Texas Department of State Health Services, the nurse developed symptoms Friday, and a blood sample was tested for Ebola in a lab in Austin. 

“The individual was self-monitoring, and, immediately on developing symptoms, as appropriate, she contacted the health care system, and, when she came in, she was promptly isolated,” Frieden said. 

The press release stated health officials have interviewed the patient and have identified only one possible contact that could have been exposed to the virus. 

David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the department has been ramping up control measures to prepare for further possible transmission of the virus. 

“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” Lakey said. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”

Frieden said the CDC plans to focus on four things related to the second Ebola case — caring for the worker, assessing her possible contacts from when she developed symptoms, evaluating other possible exposures to the virus, and launching an investigation to find out how the breach in protocol happened. 

Frieden said the CDC has sent additional staff to Texas and plans to implement increased training of health care workers at Texas hospitals, limit the number of workers and procedures related to Ebola patients and examine procedures used for personal protective equipment.  

“What we do to stop Ebola is to break the links of transmission,” Frieden said. “We do that by making sure every person with Ebola is promptly diagnosed, that they’re promptly isolated, that we identify their contacts, and that we actively monitor their contacts every day for 21 days.”

The 48 people who have possibly come into contact with the virus are still being monitored, officials said.