Nurse Contracts Ebola Virus From Index Case in Dallas

By on 3:52 PM

Officials have confirmed that a nurse who took care of Thomas Eric Duncan, the index Ebola case who arrived from Liberia approximately 10 days ago, has contracted the illness and is stable at present. She was self-monitoring and after developing a low-grade fever, she took herself to the hospital she works at and was immediately placed in isolation.

This has sent shockwaves through the healthcare community as well as the public, and many questions are being posed as to how she could have contracted the disease. An additional question is whether another healthcare worker will come down with it from the index patient or from the nurse patient.

It is well known that Ebola virus is highly contagious, particularly for healthcare workers or healthcare givers especially after exposure to infected secretions/excreta and body fluids. While the nurse was wearing "full protection," it obviously was not good enough or she had not been properly trained on its use and removal. Removal of the gear is particularly important as contamination of one’s self can occur very easily at that point. It may never be known as to how she became exposed but it certainly has heightened our alert in the infection prevention world as well as the entire medical community. Is it time for full body suits?

It is well documented that prevention of transmission of infection in the healthcare setting is inconsistent, at times a failure and in need of constant monitoring. We see this mostly with respect to the ongoing issues we have with transmission of multi-drug resistant organisms such as MRSA, VRE, ESBLs, CRE and C. difficile infection. Ebola, which is far more contagious, essentially spreads the same way.

Infection prevention consultant Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, has been contacted by several media outlets to discuss the prevention strategies, and has been asked repeatedly whether she believes that we are taking maximum precautions. As stated in an article by the Pittsburgh Tribune and a radio show interview with Mike Pintek from Pittsburgh's KDKA-CBS radio last week link, she feels that the World Health Organization should have suspended all commercial/casual flights into and out of West African countries affected by Ebola. She also believes that the time has come for the United States to step up its protective equipment/gear for healthcare professionals on the front line in addition to ensuring heightened screening of patients admitted to emergency rooms across the nation. If drastic measures are not taken, we could be facing the catastrophic consequences of an unprepared medical community.

Phenelle’s recent television interviews can be viewed on the websites of
ABC News 25 (Palm Beach County, Fla.) and CBS News 12 (Palm Beach County, Fla.).

Phenelle Segal provides infection prevention and control consulting services to all healthcare sectors, including hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers, and can provide Ebola prevention plans. For more information, contact Phenelle by clicking here.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.