CDC chief accused of using Ebola-infected nurse as ‘scapegoat’

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The national nursing union is accusing officials of trying to “scapegoat” the Ebola-infected health worker in Dallas instead of acknowledging that hospitals nationwide are largely unprepared for the disease.

U.S. health officials are investigating what they call a “breach in protocol” that led to the country’s second Ebola diagnosis. But an official from National Nurses United warned Sunday that the larger problem in fighting Ebola in the U.S. is the lack of training and preparation at thousands of hospitals across the country.

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"You don't scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak," Bonnie Castillo, who leads the union’s emergency response unit, told Reuters. "We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct."

The Dallas nurse, who has not been identified, tested positive for the deadly disease Saturday.

The nurse was one of several health workers caring for the country’s first Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, before he died of the disease last week. Local and state health leaders had said hospital workers were safe because they had worn protective gear, including gloves, a gown, a mask and eyewear.

She was not one of the 50 people who are being monitored daily for possible Ebola symptoms because of their exposure to Duncan.

Castillo’s comments were in response to Tom Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who said that there were likely missteps at the hospital that caused the disease to spread.

"I think the fact that we don't know of a breach in protocol is concerning because clearly there was a breach in protocol. We have the ability to prevent the spread of Ebola by caring safely for patients," Frieden told CBS “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

He added that “it’s hard” to avoid all risk when caring for Ebola patients and “even a single breach can result in contamination.”

The Dallas hospital has already faced criticism for failing to initially admit Duncan, despite his 103-degree fever and recent travel to Liberia.  

The nursing union has already tried to sound the alarm on hospitals’ lack of preparedness to combat Ebola. A survey released last month revealed that a majority of U.S. nurses don’t believe their hospitals are equipped to treat the disease.

Out of about 400 nurses surveyed by the National Nurses United, 80 percent said their hospitals have not taught them about Ebola or how to admit a possible Ebola patient.

In an interview with CNN last week, Castillo also warned that few hospitals were adequately training their staff.

“We know that we can do better in the U.S. hospitals. But, unfortunately, it is a fragmented and disparate response,” she told CNN.