Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden admitted on Tuesday that he wishes the agency had sent in a complete team to Dallas as soon as the first American case of Ebola was diagnosed.
Frieden said that he believed the second case of Ebola, 26 year-old nurse Nina Pham, who treated the initial patient, Thomas Duncan, could have been prevented had the CDC gone in full-force immediately upon learning of the country’s first Ebola infection. The CDC is now monitoring another 76 health-care workers who may have had contact with either Duncan or his blood samples.
Frieden was said the CDC will now be sending an “Ebola response team” to all hospitals in the country with a confirmed case of the disease.
“I wish we had a put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed,” Frieden said. “That might have prevented this infection. But we will do that from this day onward with any case anywhere in the U.S.”
The CDC did send advisers to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital when Duncan was first diagnosed, including assistance for tracing anyone who may have had contact with the patients and monitoring them for signs of disease. But Frieden said there were further experts the CDC could have sent to assist in training health care workers, as Americans are naturally unfamiliar with treating the foreign disease.
“I think, in retrospect,” Dr. Frieden clarified, “We could have sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on. … We should have put an even larger team on the ground immediately, and we will do that from now on.”
In addition to “ramping up” education for health care workers across the country, including “webinars, conference calls, outreach and support,” the CDC will now immediately send a complete team to any hospital upon confirmation that a patient has Ebola.
The new “Ebola response teams” will go out to any hospital in the U.S. within hours to help with infection control, laboratory science, management of Ebola units, experimental therapies and more.
Frieden and Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said their teams have still been unable to identify exactly how Nina Pham, the nurse who contracted the disease from Duncan, was infected.
They did attempt to tamp down on fears that more in Texas will develop Ebola from the first two patients, however. None of the 48 people who had contact with Thomas Duncan have come down with any symptoms of Ebola yet, Frieden said, and they’ve now gotten through tw0-thirds of the typical incubation period for Ebola.
“Two-thirds of the incubation period is far more than two-thirds of the risk — most of the cases happen within that 8 to 10 day window,” Frieden said. “It doesn’t rule out further cases, but it would be unusual.”
Apart from Pham, none of the 76 health-care workers who had contact with either Duncan or his blood samples has come down with the disease yet. Frieden admitted, however, that the CDC “might identify a few more people as we go through records.”
The one person who had contact with Pham after she contracted the disease is being monitored and is doing well, Frieden said — as is Pham’s dog. No other cases of Ebola have been confirmed in the U.S.