By Megan R. Wilson - 10/12/14 12:15 PM EDT
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday said more Ebola cases are possible after a healthcare worker at a Dallas hospital tested positive for the deadly virus.
The hospital employee, who has not yet been identified, had “extensive contact” with Thomas Duncan, the man who died last week from the illness, according to the CDC. Duncan had contracted the disease in Liberia.
"Unfortunately, it is possible that we will see additional cases of Ebola” because of potential breaches in the use of safety gear, Frieden said.
It was initially reported that she was at “low risk” for contracting the disease, but the CDC said on Sunday that “a breach in [safety] protocol” occurred “at some point,” though the agency is unsure what or how it happened.
“Even a single, inadvertent, innocent slip can result in contamination,” he said.
Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, told reporters on Sunday that he is confident the Dallas hospital would be able to “stop this here.”
“We have to be very careful ... to be meticulous to make sure there are no breaches. Is it frustrating? Of course it is,” he said. “Do I doubt that we are going to stop the spread of this?... No.”
The CDC is sending more staff to Texas to “assist in this response,” which includes opening an investigation to figure out how the worker became infected and how health workers at the Dallas hospital treat patients.
The agency will also monitor how hospital staffers put on and remove the protective gear that protects them from infected body fluids, as contact with those fluids is how Ebola spreads.
The hospital will have a full-time staffer whose sole job making sure that workers are educated on, and follow procedures for, “effective infection control,” Frieden said.
“What we do to stop Ebola is to break the links of transmission,” he added.
Dozens of individuals who had contact with the Duncan before he was admitted to the hospital and isolated are being monitored for infection, but they are not yet showing any symptoms, Frieden said.
The CDC is now casting a wider net to also monitor workers who came in contact with him while he was receiving treatment, though Frieden said there is “no risk [of contracting Ebola] outside of those circles of people.”