The Centers for Disease Control quietly lowered the official threshold for what it considers significant fever after the first nurse diagnosed with the disease began exhibiting symptoms at a lower than expected temperature.
“We changed to 100.4 after the first nurse presented to hospital with symptoms of disease and her temp was not the 101.5 that Ebola patients usually present when they are having vomiting diarrhea, etc.,” CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner told The Daily Caller through email on Thursday.
That nurse is 26-year-old Nina Pham, who treated Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital. The 43-year-old Duncan, a Liberian national, died on Oct. 8.
Questions over the CDC’s temperature threshold arose Wednesday when a second nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, was diagnosed with the gruesome disease.
Vinson’s case is especially troublesome because she boarded a flight from Cleveland to Dallas while running a minor fever at 99.5 degrees.
While CDC director Tom Friedan criticized Vinson’s decision given that she had treated Duncan, it came to light later on Wednesday that a CDC worker may have given Vinson the green light to fly.
Vinson reportedly called the CDC several times before boarding the flight but says that a worker at the organization consulted a temperature chart which said that she was OK to fly since her fever was not 100.4 degrees or higher.
A public health official admitted that the CDC made a mistake saying, “I really think this one is on us.”
The protocol change appears to have come without public announcement.
On one CDC webpage, updated on Oct. 15, the agency cites 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit as the critical temperature.
“Monitor your health for 21 days. Watch for symptoms of Ebola: fever (temperature of 100.4°F/38°C† or higher), severe headaches, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, unexplained bleeding or bruising,” the site directs.
But a document from August 22 cites a higher threshold. (RELATED: Report: Nurse With Ebola Was Given OK To Fly Despite Fever)
“For Ebola, a fever of 101.5°F (38.6°C) or higher is considered significant,” reads the document, which was intended for use by public health officials and airport authorities.
By lowering the critical temperature threshold, the CDC has essentially admitted that it is still learning about how to treat Ebola, which has led to thousands of deaths in West Africa.
The CDC’s new 101.4 degree threshold matches one used in a study conducted recently by the World Health Organization. But according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported on that study, 13 percent of patients with Ebola did not exhibit a fever.
Fever has been cited as one of the main symptoms that people concerned about having contracted Ebola have been instructed to watch for. But the finding contradicts statements from U.S. public health officials.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, when Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked by reporters on Oct. 4 whether people infected with Ebola can be contagious without running a fever he said “the answer to that is no.”
Pham is currently being treated at her home hospital in Dallas. Vinson was flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both came into contact with Duncan while they were wearing insufficient medical gear while he was emitting heavy vomiting and diarrhea.