Officials have said that a Texas health care worker who contracted Ebola caught the disease because of a breach in protocol. The precise reason for the virus being transmitted, however, remains a mystery.
The female health care worker who tested positive for Ebola caught the disease because of a lapse in protocol, according to the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Thomas Frieden.
The worker, who had been treating the patient Thomas Eric Duncan reported a low-grade fever on Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing.
"We're deeply concerned about this new development," Frieden said in an interview with the television news channel CBS on the program "Face the Nation."
"I think the fact that we don't know of a breach in protocol is concerning because clearly there was a breach in protocol."
The woman is the first individual to have contracted the disease on US soil, having caught the virus from Duncan. Initial tests showed the woman, thought to be a nurse, had low levels of Ebola in her system. The patient is currently being treated in isolation.
"We don't know what occurred in the care of the 'index patient' - the original patient in Dallas - but at some point there was a breach in protocol and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection," said Frieden.
'Inadvertant and innocent'
Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed Frieden's comments.
"Certainly there has to have been an inadvertent innocent breach of the protocol of taking care of a patient within the personal protective equipment," Fauci told the television channel ABC.
"That extremely rarely happens. We've been taking care of Ebola patients since 1976. Groups like Doctors without Borders who do that almost never have an infection because of the experience of doing this."
Dan Varga, chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources added there was "great concern" that the patient had contracted the disease despite wearing a mask, gown and gloves.
More than 4,000 people have died of the Ebola virus in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization, with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone at the heart of the outbreak.
The disease spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of a symptomatic person. Those fluids must have an entry point, such as a cut or scrape, or through a person touching the nose, mouth or eyes with contaminated hands. Duncan was the first person to be diagnosed with the disease in the US. A Liberian national, he had been visiting the US to attend the high-school graduation of his son, who was born in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast and whose mother resettled in the US when he was a child.
A Spanish nurse assistant recently became the first health care worker infected outside West Africa in the ongoing outbreak after she helped care for a missionary priest who was brought from West Africa to a Madrid hospital.
rc/glb (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)