It emerged Friday that a hospital employee who may have come into contact with Ebola at Texas Presbyterian had left the country on a Carnival Cruise ship. She is traveling with her husband. They boarded the ship, which is now returning to the U.S., October 12 at Galveston, Texas.
1. She Had No Direct Contact With Thomas Eric Duncan, ‘Patient Zero’
The Texas Presbyterian employee is a lab supervisor who may have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan’s clinical fluid samples, though not with Duncan directly.
She may have handled the specimens after Duncan was admitted into isolation on his second visit to Texas Presbyterian before his death on October 8th.
2. The Employee is Self-Quarantined in Her Cabin
The CDC got in touch with the employee on the ship as part of contact trace investigation in response to the death of Duncan. The cruise line facilitated this contact and the employee was vetted by the ship’s doctor. She shows no sign of disease.
The contact she had with Duncan’s samples was 19 days ago, so she is only two days away from the end of the 21-day window during which transmission is possible.
This CDC document lays out the symptoms necessary for a patient to ‘screen positive’ for Ebola.
3. The CDC Changed It’s Requirements After the Worker Left the Country
The employee has reportedly been self-monitoring since October 6th, in accordance with the CDC’s initial advisory for hospital employees at Texas Presbyterian who may have been exposed.
Since then, with the diagnosis of two nurses who treated Duncan, the CDC updated its requirements to include ‘active monitoring’.
Amber Vinson, the second Dallas nurse to contract the disease, was also self-monitoring when she contacted the CDC to ask if she was cleared to fly with a low-grade fever, the day before she was diagnosed.
4. Authorities Are Trying to Get Her Home
The Belize authorities confirmed this morning that they had been in touch with the U.S. government and had refused their request to facilitate the employee’s evacuation through Phillip Goldson International Airport.
Mexican authorities also denied the ship permission to dock off the coast of Cozumel, and the ship is now en route to return to Galveston.
5. Cruise Ships Have a History of Disastrous Disease Outbreaks
Cruise ships are historically poor at containing or controlling the spread of disease. Many large cruise lines have had disastrous outbreaks, often of gastrointestinal illnesses, which spread rapidly in the close confines of a ship.
The CDC has a specific protocol called the Vessel Sanitation Program to control the spread of such diseases.