CDC director regrets US Ebola response

CDC director regrets US Ebola response
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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday said a Dallas nurse diagnosed with Ebola might not have gotten the virus if the response from the federal government had been different.

CDC Director Tom Frieden pledged to dispatch emergency response crews to any hospital in the country where Ebola is diagnosed, and said such a response might have prevented Nina Pham from getting the disease.

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“I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed. That might have prevented this,” Frieden said. “But we will do that from this day onward with any case anywhere in the U.S.”

Pham treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from Ebola last week. The Dallas hospital where she works is facing criticism and potentially a lawsuit after Duncan’s death because of several errors in his care.

Frieden said the CDC should have taken the kind of approach it is adopting now when Duncan was first diagnosed.

While the CDC did send a team initially to help with contact tracing and monitoring, he said it should have included more infection control specialists.

“I think in retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight, we could have sent a more robust infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital about how this could be managed,” he said.

The CDC has at times struggled to coordinate its response in Dallas with the city's hospitals and state officials over the last month. The federal agency deferred to the hospital on criticisms of Duncan's care, though officials have acknowledged that mistakes were made when hospital staff failed to properly take a travel history.

Frieden also faced a wave of criticism this weekend when he said there had been a “breach of protocol” at the Dallas hospital that caused the second infection.

He apologized for his remarks Monday, which he said had been interpreted as “finding fault with the hospital or the healthcare worker.”

Frieden said Tuesday that the CDC still does not know how the disease was transmitted in Dallas, because Pham was wearing protective gear. He said an additional 76 health workers are considered at-risk after potentially having contract with Duncan. 

President Obama said Tuesday that he is “surging resources into Dallas” to learn how the nurse became infected with Ebola. 

He said the U.S. “will make sure all lessons learned are applied to hospitals around the country.”

The CDC has substantially increased its role at Texas Presbyterian since the second case of Ebola was diagnosed — the first to spread in the U.S.

He said the CDC is reaching out to staff at Emory and Nebraska medical centers, which both helped Ebola-infected Americans recover. Two nurses from Emory are already working in Dallas to help treat the city's second case. 

The hospital, which has defended its care of Duncan, provided a statement from Pham on Tuesday.

“I’m doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers. I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas,” Pham said.