Report: Nurse Who Had Ebola Was Given Green Light To Fly Despite Fever

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The second Dallas nurse diagnosed with Ebola, who boarded a commercial flight from Cleveland the day before she was diagnosed, called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a slight fever but was told she could still fly, according to news reports.

Amber Joy Vinson was running a slight temperature of 99.5 degrees before boarding the Dallas-bound Frontier Airlines flight on Monday. She called the CDC to check whether she should fly, but an employee at the agency checked a temperature chart and determined that Vinson was still able to fly, both CBS DFW and CNN are reporting.

The 29-year-old Vinson contracted the deadly disease while caring for Liberian citizen Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital.

Nina Pham was the first nurse to contract Ebola after tending to Duncan, who died on Oct. 8.

It was unclear early Wednesday why Vinson made the flight. “She should not have been on that plane,” said CDC director Tom Frieden at a press conference.

“Although [Vinson] did not report any symptoms and she did not meet the fever threshold of 100.4, she did report at that time she took her temperature and found it to be 99.5,” Frieden added.

Friedan said that given the fact that Vinson was not expelling fluids, others on the flight are at an “extremely low” risk of contracting the disease. Nevertheless, the CDC is attempting to get in contact with the 132 other passengers on the flight.

“This nurse, Nurse Vinson, did in fact call the CDC several times before taking that flight and said she has a temperature, a fever of 99.5, and the person at the CDC looked at a chart and because her temperature wasn’t 100.4 or higher she didn’t officially fall into the category of high risk,” reported CBS News medical correspondent Dr. John LaPook.

According to CBS DFW, Vinson was in extremely close contact with Duncan while caring for him – drawing blood, handling body fluids and inserting catheters.

For nearly two days after Duncan first went to the hospital on Sept. 28, medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian cared for Duncan as he vomited heavily and experienced diarrhea.

Vinson has been flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta where two other Ebola victims have received care.

Update: A federal health official told the New York Times that when Vinson called the CDC she was not given clear commands on whether or not to fly. “I don’t think we actually said she could fly, but they didn’t tell her she couldn’t fly,” the official told the Times. The official also admitted that the health agency was at fault. “She called us,” said the official. “I really think this one is on us.”

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