CDC drops the ball

By now you have most likely heard that a second nurse caring for US Ebola patient Thomas Duncan has contracted the Ebola disease.  The nurse drew blood, put in catheters, and worked with the bodily fluids of Thomas Duncan.  Last Friday the nurse flew to Cleveland to prepare for her wedding, then Monday before her flight back to Dallas she reported to the CDC she had a low grade fever of 99.5. Here’s where I’m baffled by this story.  The CDC allowed the nurse to fly back even though they had this information.  WHAT!?!?!?

Last week I did a post asking readers if all US passengers should have their temperature checked before being allowed to fly.   In that post I mentioned that the CDC considers anyone with a 100° F temperature to have a fever.   In this particular case, if we had a policy in place to check all US passenger temperatures before allowing them to fly the precautions would have failed because her temperature was below the 100° F CDC threshold.  However, this is a much different situation.  We aren’t talking about some random passenger that could have the flu which in turn could get others sick.  We are talking about a nurse that was handling the bodily fluids, etc. of a patient that DIED from Ebola!  We are talking about a nurse that was caring for Duncan in the most exposed way I can think of.

The CDC dropped the ball, and that’s saying it nicely.  They put an unknown number of people at risk by letting this nurse fly back to Dallas, and I’m outraged.  The nurse gave the CDC a ‘red flag’ by reporting her elevated temperature, and they still didn’t get the picture.  Was the CDC trying not to contradict their definition of ‘fever’ by letting her fly?  I understand that the nurse had a temperature below 100°, but come on CDC!  We are talking about a disease that’s killing thousands of people and this nurse was dealing directly with it.

The CDC has said that the chances of someone in the general public getting Ebola is slim to none, but they also admitted they made a mistake by letting the nurse fly (gee, you think?).  I expect that CDC Director Thomas Frieden will be forced out soon, but that won’t fix anything. What really needs to happen is that our medical staff needs to be fully trained and fully equipped to deal with this disease (these nurses weren’t) and the CDC needs to keep a closer eye on those who have been exposed.

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Comments

  1. Thousands are dying of this disease in places without the medical facilities to deal with it. In the U.S., you are far more at risk of dying from the flu or pneumonia, as over 50,000 did last year. And it is very easy to bring that risk down for everyone, just make sure everyone in your family gets a vaccine.

    When tens of thousands of ppl in this country start getting Ebola every year, then you can start giving space to it here. Until then, as Bob advised, just chill.

  2. Too late for what? To do something about it? There is no cure for this disease, just like there is no cure for SARS and others like it. There is something that can be done about diseases which ARE causing tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S., yet people still aren’t doing what they need to do to stop it from happening.

    So, no, it will not be too late because it is not nearly as big of a deal for someone with Ebola to be on a plane as it is for someone with the flu to be on a plane. Because flu germs are transmitted while airborne and Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids. Like AIDS. You have as much chance of getting Ebola from sitting next to someone who has it as you do of sitting next to someone who has AIDS. Which is, not much, unless you try to join the Mile High club during the flight.

  3. Just what we need, another site freaking people out. Fever is ONE of the symptoms of ebola and as we enter cold and flu season, it is important to remember that fever alone is not indicative of Ebola. There are a number of things that the CDC could do better, but polling random people about their opinions on taking people’s temperature is foolhardy.

  4. I agree, the chances of some random person contracting Ebola are very, very slim. And no, fever isn’t the only indicator. But an elevated fever in someone who has been exposed, after another nurse has already tested positive? People are freaked out about this, and the CDC making stupid decisions like ignoring this nurse’s elevated temperature don’t help. Two kids from a school in Texas flew on that flight, and parents freaked out so much the school district closed the school for cleaning. People aren’t necessarily reacting rationally right now.

  5. It speaks to our ability to protect ourselves when an emergency happens. Truly events such as this remind me we are vulnerable …to infectious attacks and that scares the hell outta me! Not enough to go bat shot crazy because no one I know has it yet. Ebola should be considered extremely dangerous!! It can spread faster than u think. MUCH easier and quicker than AIDS!! The CDC and The Dallas hospital surely screwed the pooch on this one….thankfully we are aware of the shortcomings and demand it corrected.

  6. Wish I could have that click back…

    As you’re backtracking when the comments called you out on spreading hysteria, I’m sure you realize that as a blogger capital letters equate to yelling. If you’re wondering why readers think you’re unnecessarily spreading panic, understand you’re yelling while trying to second-guess doctors and biologists that understand disease transmission *slightly* better than you do.

    The disease has a very high barrier to entry of the body, namely fluids. If I could, I would film myself on an airplane full of ebola patients going trans-oceanic, and mail that to the media. Short of sharing needles, joining the mile-high club or having the diagnosed spit into my open sores, I would not contract the disease.

    If you want to panic about something, panic about our country being so poorly educated about disease transmission some states are nearing 10% of their children lacking basic immunizations:
    http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/10/oregon_has_highest_rate_of_unv.html#incart_m-rpt-1

    Sciences bitches, it works.

  7. How can it spread MUCH quicker and easier than AIDS she they are spread EXACTLY the same way? Through bodily fluids. You could sit next to an Ebola patient on a 14 hour flight, talking the whole time, with them breathing right into your face and YOU WILL NOT CATCH IT! Because IT IS NOT AIRBORNE!

    So, NO, it is NOT spread more easily than AIDS.

    This is why people are spreading panic everywhere. The media has convinced them they are in danger. Get a grip, people. Pay attention to what the CDC says about the disease instead of complaining about them. They know more than those idiots trying to drum up their ratings.

  8. Rebecca, How about if that person with a fever you are so boldly sitting next to sneezes or coughs at you? Or you have a cut on your hand and they touch you? Then what?

  9. Stephen,

    Then, you would be as likely to get it as you would be to get AIDS if a person with AIDS did the same thing. That would not cause an epidemic. The whole plane would not end up with the disease. The passengers would not then go forth to spread the disease around the country.

    If people want to do something that is actually effective in preventing epidemics that kill tens of thousands of Americans every. Single. Year. Then they should go get flu and pneumonia vaccines. Because all of those plane passengers have a much greater chance of dying from flu or pneumonia this year than they do of getting Ebola. And that will very likely be true for many years to come.

  10. Ford, Rebecca – you might want to listen to Dr Frieden’s comments and let us know when you spot the inherent contradiction in his “You can catch it but you can transmit it” talk about airline flights. Also, read CNN latest about the CDC expanded outreach to people on Vinson’s first flight now. And you wonder why people are panicky and worried. No one said that there aren’t any number of more likely illnesses that will kill you, but don’t patronize people.

  11. Stephen,

    I am not patronizing anyone. I am not saying that there are a lot of things that can kill you. Also, there is no contradiction in what the CDC is saying. I will get to that in a minute.

    Also, Paul, I am not claiming to be an expert. And Ebola is not new, it was first spotted in 1976.

    Now let me try to make clear what I AM saying. Look at the difference here.

    The CDC says it is “not impossible”, but “highly unlikely” that anyone on that plane was at risk from the Ebola patient. They are going through all the extra precautions as additional safety measure, and they don’t want infected people riding public transportation because they don’t want want ANYONE to catch this very dangerous disease.

    But if someone DID catch it, this would STILL not be a reason to panic because this disease is not transmitted through the air, only bodily fluids, so it is MUCH more difficult to spread. That is fact.

    Barely anyone in this country has died of this disease, and it can only be spread through body fluids. Yet people are in a HUGE panic. Now contrast that to the flue and pneumonia.

    Over 50 THOUSAND people died of those last year in this country. Those germs are AIRBORNE. You can catch the flu just by walking past a person going on the opposite direction. There is SO much more chance that the people on that plane could catch the flu and so,done would DIE from it, than catch, much less die, of Ebola from that patient it’s not even funny.

    Just because of the way the diseases are transmitted.

    The elderly, people with weak immune systems, and babies are ALL vulnerable to the flu and pneumonia. They are the ones dying from those diseases. And they don’t even need to be on that plane, only someone they know!

    Now tell me, when you compare those those two very different risks. Why is everyone freaking out over one Ebola patient on a plane instead of all the people who did not get flu vaccines spreading their airborne germs on planes? They are, statistically, SO very much more likely to be the cause of someone’s death, why is anyone with the flu allowed to fly and no one is making a stink about it.

    We have had flu epidemics, and tens of thousands have died. This nurse, according to the odds, probably didn’t even hurt a single person. And if she happened to infect one and that person infected one, it still would spread to tens of thousands. Because spreading bodily fluids is a MUCH slower way of spreading germs than just walking around breathing.

    And you don’t need to be an expert to figure that out. It’s just common sense. And the CDC has been saying from the beginning that there is no need to panic. Because there isn’t. The only people hyping the need to panic are in the media trying to raise ratings.

    And not even all of them. Just go up and look at the clip from Fox News anchor Shep Smith, calling out his colleagues for this. Seriously, the real experts have been saying all along. There is NO need to panic about Ebola in this country.

    And I am not being patronizing when I say that, if you are worried about epidemic deaths, particularly from diseases spread on airplanes, then the flu should be your number one concern. I mean that with all sincerity.

  12. Rebecca – Appreciate your forthright response. I feel differently however, as little that has been done with respect to these cases on US or European soil instills any confidence. It’s one screw-up after another! I’m not confident in the CDC, this is a big bureaucracy that has failed miserably to control the first few cases recorded on US soil. What will happen when the incidence rate increases as it surely will over the next few months? We are not dealing with this adequately now, what makes you think it will improve? And now the CDC is engaged in a blame game instead of offering leadership. That was the point of Roadwarriorettes’s comments.

    Flu does not kill healthy adults, nor are vaccines necessary for the average person. This virus will. You won’t need to worry just about the elderly or babies if it takes hold here. The current Ebola strain is different from what has been isolated in previous outbreaks – do some research on the subject – see the journal “Science” for example – and you will find that this virus is mutating very quickly. The CDC information is based on earlier strains. No one knows – CDC included – how long we have before it goes truly airborne. If anyone thinks they are safe travelling with an infected person you are deluding yourself.

  13. In laboratory test they have proved it can be airborne- it has the propensity to become airborne.
    CDC is not releasing all they know.
    All be it we don’t live in a lab and it hasn’t presented itself in that manner-but they’re are scientist saying its a possibility.

  14. Rebecca, viruses CAN mutate you know-it is conceivable that Ebola could mutate to a form that is transmissible via the air. I would not personally panic, but it is not good science to assume it can only ever be transmitted via bodily fluids and exclude any other possibility from a risk evaluation. It is always a possibility with pathogens. It is possibly, hopefully, probably a low odds mutation, but it could happen and might be selected for.

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