Texas health officials said early Sunday morning that a healthcare worker at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, even though the worker followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) precautions and was not part of a high-risk pool.
“A health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for the Ebola patient hospitalized there has tested positive for Ebola in a preliminary test at the state public health laboratory in Austin,” the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement.
The healthcare worker treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Duncan, a Liberian man who contracted Ebola prior to visiting Texas, died last week. Officials did not detail the contact between Duncan and the new Ebola patient.
The CDC confirmed the initial results late Sunday.
“The health care worker reported a low grade fever Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing,” the department said. “The preliminary test result was received late Saturday.”
Officials said the patient has been interviewed and any contacts or potential exposures are being identified. People who had contact with the healthcare worker after the symptoms emerged will be monitored, they added.
"We knew a second case could be a reality, and we've been preparing for this possibility," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. "We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread."
“That healthcare worker is a heroic person,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said at a news conference Sunday morning, adding that the patient and the patient’s family are “going through a great ordeal.” Jenkins said the patient’s family has asked that their privacy be respected and their name not be released.
Dan Varga, Texas Health Resources' chief clinical officer, said the patient’s condition is stable.
The healthcare worker was not considered at high risk of contracting Ebola, Varga said. The individual was following full CDC precautions, Varga added. "We're very concerned."
Patients are being diverted from the hospital's emergency room, officials added.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings (D) said that the citizens of the city are safe, adding that a Hazmat team has decontaminated common areas of the patient’s apartment complex. Police are guarding the complex, he added.
A team will decontaminate the apartment’s interior later Sunday, Rawlings said. A pet has been reported in the patient’s apartment, he added.
The patient’s car was decontaminated at the hospital, Rawlings said.
Officials have “knocked on every door on that block” near the patient’s apartment and talked to everyone who responded, Rawlings said.
Officials were planning to revisit the neighborhood later Sunday morning, he added.
President Obama was briefed on the second Ebola case Sunday morning by top aides, the White House said Sunday afternoon.
The president directed Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mary Mathews BurwellThe biggest revelations from Fauci's inbox What a Biden administration should look like Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration MORE to move the CDC’s investigation into an apparent breach in protocols as expeditiously as possible and share lessons learned quickly and broadly, the White House added.
The new Ebola diagnosis comes as the Obama administration has ordered heightened screening at five major airports to try and prevent the virus from again entering the country undetected.
Administration officials said the screenings at Washington Dulles, John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty, O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson international airports will reach 94 percent of passengers who are arriving from the African nations that are battling Ebola.
A group of 27 lawmakers, including three Democrats, signed a letter last Wednesday urging Obama to immediately halt flights from West African countries that are at the center of the outbreak.
Administration officials have repeatedly said that canceling flights to Ebola-stricken countries would be counterproductive by hurting efforts to combat the deadly virus at its source.
This report was first published at 6:30 a.m. and last updated at 4:11 p.m.