An American nurse from the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient to ever be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, and though she seemingly took all necessary precautions, she’s been infected. This is the first known transmission ever in the United States.
“At some point, there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though the nurse has not been able to point to a specific breach, the CDC is looking into the possibilities.
Firstly, the infection might have occurred during respiratory intubation or during kidney dialysis. Duncan underwent both, and according to Frieden, “Both of those procedures may spread contaminated materials and are considered high-risk procedures.”
Secondly, the infection could have occurred when protective equipment was removed. Removing potentially contaminated masks, gloves, or other things without any risk of coming into contact with contaminated material isn’t easy, after all.
Thirdly — and perhaps most troubling — the problem could have been something else. Sometimes, health care workers’ precautions can go overboard.
“For example, they are supposed to double glove in some situations,” explained Elizabeth Cohen, a CNN Senior Medical Correspondent. “Well, triple gloving is a violation of protocol and actually could make things worse, instead of making things better, because then you need to take off three pairs of gloves … gloves with infectious stuff on them.”
A clerical oversight is only one of many different possibilities.
Though health officials have tried to quell the nation’s fears about Ebola spreading, the CDC does concede that the transmission is worrisome, because those who provided care to Duncan may have been exposed in a similar breach as the one nurse has.
According to Friedan, “It is possible in the coming days that we will see additional cases of Ebola.”