Texas Ebola Nurse Isolated on Cruise Ship

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2014_10_17_01_12_21Carnival_Magic_near_Belize_CityThe ship made its scheduled visit to Belize on Thursday. Passengers were free to disembark there for the day other than the guest and her traveling companion who are in voluntary isolation.

 

Jen Psaki, State Department Spokesperson stated:

 

“As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s detailed contact trace investigation conducted in response to the first Ebola case in Dallas, it was discovered that an employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had departed the United States via a commercial cruise ship on October 12 from Galveston, Texas. The employee did not have direct contact with the since deceased Ebola patient, but may have had contact with clinical specimens collected from him. The individual was out of the country before being notified of CDC’s updated requirements for active monitoring. At the time the hospital employee left the country, CDC was requiring only self-monitoring.

 

The employee has been self-monitoring, including daily temperature checks, since October 6, and has not had a fever or demonstrated any symptoms of illness. It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed the since deceased patient’s fluid samples. The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health.

 

Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin. We are working with the cruise line to safely bring them back to the United States out of an abundance of caution.”

 

Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed the following in an official statement: Late afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 15., we were made aware by the U.S. CDC of a guest sailing this week on board Carnival Magic who is a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.  At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples.  She is deemed by CDC to be very low risk.  At this time, the guest remains in isolation on board the ship and is not deemed to be a risk to any guests or crew. It is important to reiterate that the individual has no symptoms and has been isolated in an extreme abundance of caution. We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board.”

 

None of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships visit the region where Ebola cases are originating nor do they call in any countries with Level 3 CDC Travel Heath Notices.   Any passengers or crew who have visited or traveled through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea within 21 days of a cruise departure date will be denied boarding. Additionally, all guests sailing with us must answer a series of health screening questions during embarkation and, if deemed necessary, will be asked to submit to further medical screening prior to being allowed to board. All cruise lines continue to monitor the situation closely, along with our colleagues in the rest of the travel industry.  The cruise industry is in close, frequent contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for updates and guidance.

 

Carnival Magic is based year-round in Galveston, TX and operates seven-day cruises to the Caribbean.  The ship departed Galveston on Sunday, Oct. 12 and will return on Sunday, Oct. 19.

 

 

President Barack Obama appointed a former White House adviser as U.S. Ebola “czar” on Friday and a Texas health worker who may have had contact with specimens from an Ebola patient was quarantined on a cruise ship amid growing concerns about the spread of the virus in the United States.

 

Obama, facing criticism from some lawmakers over efforts to contain the virus, appointed Ron Klain, a lawyer who previously served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, to oversee the U.S. response to the virus.

 

Klain’s appointment and the cruise ship incident highlighted efforts in the United States to contain Ebola even though there have been just three cases, all in Dallas, Texas. They were a Liberian, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed in the country, and two nurses who cared for him.

 

The worst hit countries have been Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where nearly 4,500 people have died. The World Food Program said on Friday that food prices in those countries have risen by an average of 24 percent, forcing some families to reduce their intake to one meal a day.

 

Klain, the president of Case Holdings and general counsel at Revolution LLC, a technology-oriented venture capital firm based in Washington, has been asked to take on coordination of the entire U.S. government response to Ebola, reporting directly to homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser.

 

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital worker aboard the cruise ship, who did not have direct contact with the now-deceased Liberian patient, Duncan, but could have processed his bodily fluids, left Sunday on a cruise from Galveston, Texas, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

 

The health worker has been self-monitoring since Oct. 6 and has not developed a fever or other symptoms of Ebola, the State Department said.

 

Carnival Cruise Lines said Friday it had been notified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) that a passenger on the Carnival Magic was a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian. It said she was deemed to be “very low risk.”

 

The ship can carry 3,690 passengers and 1,367 crew, according to the company’s website. Carnival is owned by Carnival Corp.

 

The State Department said the worker may have processed samples from Duncan 19 days ago. The maximum incubation window for the disease is 21 days, according to the CDC.

 

The worker and a companion voluntarily isolated themselves in their cabin. “We are working with the cruise line to safely bring them back to the United States out of an abundance of caution,” Psaki said in the statement.

 

The government of Belize said in a statement that it had denied a request by U.S. officials to use a Belizean airport to transport a cruise ship passenger who was considered very low risk for Ebola.

 

“The passenger never set foot in Belize,” the statement said. “When even the smallest doubt remains, we will ensure the health and safety of the Belizean people.”

 

TRAVEL BAN?

 

Klain was appointed the day after U.S. lawmakers held a congressional hearing about the administration’s handling of Ebola, with some calling for a ban on travel from West Africa, as other politicians have in recent weeks

 

Obama said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

 

On Thursday, he authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa.

 

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta told reporters separately that the government was assessing whether to issue a travel ban “on a day-to-day basis.”

 

In a sign the disease can be beaten, the World Health Organization said on Friday that the West African country of Senegal was now Ebola-free, although the country was still vulnerable to further cases.

 

The CDC has said it was expanding its search for people who may have been exposed to Amber Vinson – one of the nurses who treated the Ebola patient in Texas – to include passengers on a flight she made to Cleveland, Ohio in addition to those on her Monday return trip to Texas. Vinson went to Ohio at the weekend on Frontier Airlines while running a slight fever.

 

Dr. Christopher Braden, a CDC spokesman, said Vinson may have been ill as early as Friday, when she boarded the flight from Dallas to Cleveland.

 

Lawrence Vinson, Amber Vinson’s uncle, told CNN on Friday that no travel restrictions were imposed on the nurses who treated Duncan and that his niece did not believe she was putting anyone in danger by boarding the plane to Ohio.

 

“They were given gear that was supposed to provide isolation and they were given protocols to follow that they believed would protect them,” Lawrence Vinson said.

 

He said his niece did not contact the CDC directly, but health workers in Texas had checked in with her in Ohio and made multiple calls to the CDC to get the go-ahead for her flight back to Dallas on Monday.

 

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director, has said it is unlikely passengers who flew with Vinson were infected because the nurse had not vomited or bled on the flight, but he said she should not have boarded the plane.

 

The first nurse to contract the disease in the United States, Nina Pham, was in fair and stable condition, U.S. health officials said on Friday.

 

Spain said on Friday that the four people hospitalized on Thursday as suspected Ebola patients had tested negative for the disease.

 

There is no cure for Ebola. However, U.S. health officials have asked three advanced biology laboratories to submit plans for producing the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp. The drug ran out after it was given to a handful of medical workers who contracted the disease in West Africa, government and lab officials said on Friday.

 

Australian biotech firm CSL Ltd, the world’s second-biggest blood products maker, said, meanwhile, that it was working on a plasma product to treat Ebola following a request from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, part of a growing commercial response to the outbreak.