Health & Fitness

Nurse with Ebola gets plasma from Dr. Brantly

The young nurse infected with Ebola in Dallas — a Texas Christian University graduate with deep roots in Fort Worth — received plasma from Dr. Kent Brantly, who survived the virus, a spokeswoman at the Samaritan’s Purse charity said Tuesday.

Brantly, a missionary doctor who completed his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, stopped at a blood center in Kansas City, Miss., and donated blood for Nina Pham, 26, said Devon McMillion. Pham is the first person known to have contracted the disease while in the United States.

Medical records show that some 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, including Pham, were involved in the care of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan before his death last week, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The employees, including Pham, drew Duncan’s blood, put tubes down his throat and wiped up his diarrhea. They analyzed his urine and wiped saliva from his lips, even after he had lost consciousness.

The size of the medical team reflects the hospital’s intense effort to save Duncan’s life and also suggests that many other people could have been exposed to the virus. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the agency must broaden the pool of people being monitored.

The Rev. Jim Khoi of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Fort Worth, said Nina Pham’s mother told him she has seen and spoken to her daughter using Skype, and that she is in good spirits.

Members of the congregation had a prayer session for Nina Pham Sunday, said Tom Ha, a Haltom City insurance agent who attends the same church.

“She is in stable condition right now. It’s not in critical condition,” he said. “But the news is very, very scary. We don’t have a lot information. I was frustrated at the failure of the medical system. How could it happen, especially at a hospital where they knew the man had Ebola? I think it’s because the disease is so new, and really the hospital and the CDC didn’t take it seriously enough.”

Nina Pham graduated from TCU in 2010 and moved to Dallas, where she got a job as a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian. Her identity was confirmed by officials at TCU, as well as Nolan Catholic High School, her alma mater.

The Rev. Khoi indicated that Pham’s mother is staying at a hotel near Texas Health Presbyterian.

The nurse is a 2006 graduate of Nolan Catholic, according to Pat Svacina, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. She attends the same Catholic church on East Lancaster Avenue in East Fort Worth as her mother,

“The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and its parishioners pray for the nurse that has been affected with Ebola and for her family and associates,” Svacina said in a statement. “If the need arises, the Diocese will cooperate fully with the appropriate civil authorities.”

Meanwhile, a person who came in close contact with Pham who has been placed in isolation was identified as an employee of Alcon of Fort Worth, according to The company sent an email to all staff members advising them that a company employee was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian on Sunday and is being monitored, the website said. The name of the Alcon worker was not released.

Exposure still baffling

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that the agency hasn’t determined how Pham came into contact with the virus while caring for Duncan, a Liberian man who was infected in his native country and died Wednesday.

She wore all the required protective gear and is believed to have followed the hospital’s protocols.

The CDC has characterized the cause of Pham’s infection as a protocol breach, although Director Dr. Tom Frieden clarified Monday that officials don’t know specifically what the breach was.

“I feel awful that a health care worker became infected in the care of an Ebola patient,” Frieden said. “She was there trying to help the first patient survive and now she has become infected. All of us have to work together to do whatever is possible to reduce the risk that any other healthcare worker becomes infected.”

“I want to clarify something I said yesterday,” he said. “I spoke about a ‘breach in protocol’ and that’s what we speak about in public health when we’re talking about what needs to happen and our focus is to say, would this protocol have prevented the infection? And we believe it would have. But, some interpreted that as finding fault with the hospital or the healthcare worker. And, I’m sorry if that was the impression given. That was certainly not my intention.

“People on the front lines are really protecting all of us. People on the front lines are fighting Ebola. The enemy here is a virus. Ebola. It’s not a person. It’s not a country. It’s not a place. It’s not a hospital. It’s a virus.”

The investigation is focusing on the protective equipment, and whether infection was possible while Pham was caring for Duncan or perhaps while she was taking off the gear, Frieden said Monday during a news briefing.

“What they do when they come out is where we’re most concerned,” he said. “That’s the area where we’re most concerned because you may have the virus on your equipment.”

“If we knew there was a specific incident such as a needle stick, that would indicate we could narrow it down to the healthcare workers at risk,” he said. “Since we don’t know what the exposure was, but we know there was an exposure, then we have to cast the net more widely.”

Also Monday, Texas Health conducted “town hall” meetings with hospital employees, where administrators addressed them.

CEO Barclay Berdan said, “It is important to know that we are working at all levels with the CDC to coordinate all care related issues, and now we’re working closely to provide information about precautions, care and treatment that are consistent and understandable for patients, caregivers, family members and all Americans who are concerned about how this disease is transmitted and treated.”

Dog being cared for

Pham‘s dog Bentley, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, has been taken from her apartment and will be cared for at an undisclosed location, The Associated Press reported.

The apartment is being thoroughly cleaned after tests over the weekend confirmed that she is infected.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Monday evening that the dog would be cared for in “undisclosed location in a humane, caring way.” City spokeswoman Sana Syed said the dog will be comfortable and will have toys to play with while he is monitored away from people.

There was an uproar in Spain after Madrid authorities euthanized a dog belonging to a nursing assistant sickened by the Ebola virus. Authorities were concerned the dog might be harboring the virus, and research has suggested dogs can carry it.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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