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Cruise Ship Carrying Health Worker Monitored for Ebola Returns

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — A cruise ship car­ry­ing a Dal­las health care worker who han­dled spec­i­mens of an Ebola-infected patient and is being mon­i­tored for symp­toms of the virus arrived at the Port of Galve­ston in Texas Sunday.

The Car­ni­val Magic reached the port about 5 a.m. The health care worker and her travel part­ner were allowed to dis­em­bark with restric­tions, accord­ing to the Galve­ston County Health Department.

The health care worker had been self-quarantined on the ship and hasn’t shown signs of the virus for 19 days, offi­cials said.

On Sat­ur­day, a Coast Guard heli­copter met the ship to col­lect a blood sam­ple from the uniden­ti­fied health care worker. She had departed from Galve­ston on Oct. 12 and was out of the coun­try before being noti­fied of active mon­i­tor­ing required by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, accord­ing to the State Department.

A spokesper­son for Car­ni­val Cruise Lines told ABC News the blood test came back neg­a­tive. Accord­ing to the CDC, a test is only pos­i­tive after symp­toms develop, usu­ally fever. It may take up to three days after symp­toms appear for the virus to reach detectable levels.

Given that this per­son was at appar­ently no risk of hav­ing an Ebola infec­tion, I find the whole episode baf­fling,” said ABC News chief health and med­ical edi­tor Dr. Richard Besser.

The worker did not have direct con­tact with patient Thomas Eric Dun­can, but may have had con­tact with his clin­i­cal spec­i­mens, offi­cials said. Dun­can died Oct. 8 after becom­ing the first per­son on United States soil to be diag­nosed with the virus.

The ship was refused clear­ance to dock in Cozumel, Mex­ico, on Fri­day. Belize also wouldn’t allow the woman to leave the ship the day before.

All pub­lic areas ship will be san­i­tized before the ship departs again Sun­day, CDC offi­cials said.

Since Duncan’s diag­no­sis, two nurses involved in his treat­ment at Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal, Nina Pham and Amber Vin­son, have tested pos­i­tive for Ebola. Pham, 26, was flown to the National Insti­tute of Health’s Clin­i­cal Cen­ter in Bethesda, Mary­land and Vin­son, 29, was taken to Emory Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal in Atlanta.

Bar­clay Berdan, the CEO of Texas Health Resources, apol­o­gized to the Dal­las com­mu­nity for the hospital’s han­dling of Dun­can in a let­ter that appeared in the Dal­las Morn­ing News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram Sunday.

I know that as an insti­tu­tion, we made mis­takes in han­dling this very dif­fi­cult chal­lenge,” he wrote. “When we ini­tially treated Mr. Dun­can, we exam­ined him thor­oughly and per­formed numer­ous tests, but the fact that Mr. Dun­can had trav­eled to Africa was not com­mu­ni­cated effec­tively among the care team, though it was in his med­ical chart. On that visit to the Emer­gency Depart­ment, we did not cor­rectly diag­nose his symp­toms as those of Ebola. For this, we are deeply sorry.”

Dun­can went to the emer­gency room on Sept. 26. He was ini­tially sent home with antibi­otics, but returned two days later in an ambu­lance when his symp­toms wors­ened. The hos­pi­tal then put him in isolation.

Although we had begun our Ebola pre­pared­ness activ­i­ties, our train­ing and edu­ca­tion pro­grams had not been fully deployed before the virus struck,” wrote Berdan. “In short, despite our best inten­tions and skilled med­ical teams, we did not live up to the high stan­dards that are the heart of our hospital’s his­tory, mis­sion and commitment.”

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio


Contacts of First Dallas Ebola Patient Count Down to All Clear

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — All of the 48 peo­ple who had con­tact with the first per­son to be diag­nosed with Ebola in the United States will no longer have to be mon­i­tored for the virus at the end of the day Sun­day, the Dal­las offi­cial spear­head­ing the county response said.

Thomas Eric Duncan’s fiancee Louise Troh and her fam­ily will have their active con­trol order lifted at the end of the day, accord­ing to the Texas State Health Department.

They will no longer need to stay home start­ing Mon­day,” the state­ment said. “Some­one will for­mally bring the release to them on Monday.”

Dal­las County Judge Clay Jenk­ins called this week­end a crit­i­cal period in the response to Ebola after two nurses who were involved in the treat­ment of Thomas Eric Dun­can con­tracted the disease.

He said it is “right in the mid­dle of the hot zone” now for the health care work­ers who had con­tact with Dun­can prior to his death on Oct. 8. Symp­toms are most likely to begin to man­i­fest within 8 to 10 days of expo­sure to Ebola.

One of the orig­i­nal 48 con­tacts with Dun­can came off the list two days ago, and Jenk­ins said the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion will release num­bers of oth­ers who have come off the list in the last two days.

Of the 75 health care work­ers who are also being mon­i­tored, none are see­ing patients at Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal, the judge said.

Jenk­ins said it is a ner­vous time for so many of the peo­ple stuck in a very dif­fi­cult situation.

They fre­quently will have headaches and upset stom­achs and other symp­toms, and I would too if I were on that list,” he said, adding that their symp­toms forced offi­cials to make sure they don’t have Ebola.

They are free to come to the hos­pi­tal to work in their offices and to visit the com­mand cen­ter, but they are all fur­loughed and most of them are stay­ing at home, Jenk­ins said.

Although as of Sat­ur­day morn­ing 10 or 12 of the health care work­ers had not yet signed the agree­ment with the state to avoid pub­lic places and to not travel, Jenk­ins said all of them are com­ply­ing with the state’s requirements.

Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian became the first hos­pi­tal in the nation to be faced with diag­nos­ing Ebola on Amer­i­can soil when Dun­can, a Liber­ian man vis­it­ing fam­ily in Dal­las, went to the emer­gency room on Sept. 26. He was ini­tially sent home with antibi­otics, but returned two days later in an ambu­lance when his symp­toms wors­ened. The hos­pi­tal put Dun­can in iso­la­tion. He died on Oct. 8.

Two nurses con­tracted Ebola from Dun­can, though how exactly they were exposed hasn’t been released. Nina Pham, 26, was diag­nosed on Oct. 11, and Amber Vin­son, 29, was diag­nosed on Oct. 15, health offi­cials said.

Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian cared for Pham in iso­la­tion for five days before request­ing that she be moved to another facil­ity. She was flown to an NIH facil­ity in Bethesda, Mary­land, on Oct. 16, and Vin­son was flown to Emory Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal the day before.

Pham’s boyfriend has been iso­lated and is being mon­i­tored, Jenk­ins said Sat­ur­day, though he offered no more details.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio


Answers to the Ebola Questions You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) –  News that two nurses con­tracted Ebola in the United States has Amer­i­cans on edge, but here are a few Ebola facts to calm your nerves.

There are fun­da­men­tal things we do know about Ebola and it’s those things that can make most peo­ple in Amer­ica rest very well at night that they don’t have a risk of con­tract­ing this dis­ease,” said ABC News chief health and med­ical edi­tor Dr. Richard Besser dur­ing ABC News’ Ebola town hall event on Friday.

When Does Ebola Become Contagious?

Ebola is con­ta­gious when some­one is symp­to­matic, Besser said. A fever is the first symp­tom of Ebola, which means the virus is begin­ning to mul­ti­ply in the patient’s blood when a fever sets in.

As an Ebola patient gets sicker and sicker, the amount of virus in his or her blood mul­ti­plies, mak­ing them even more contagious.

How Is Ebola Spread?

Ebola is spread through close con­tact with an infected per­son, and it’s not air­borne, Besser said.

We also know from the stud­ies in Africa that it’s a hard dis­ease to get,” Besser said. “If this dis­ease was spread through the air or was spread eas­ily — that you could get it from some­one you’re stand­ing next to in the mar­ket or sit­ting next to on a plane — this out­break would be far larger than it is today.”

Peo­ple who con­tract Ebola usu­ally do so because they’ve cared for some­one who was infected in a hos­pi­tal set­ting or at home, Besser noted, or they’ve touched the body of a per­son who died of Ebola.

Can It Become Airborne?

The major­ity of sci­en­tists say that while it’s pos­si­ble, it’s highly unlikely,” Besser said, explain­ing that the virus would have to mutate sig­nif­i­cantly.

What If Some­one With Ebola Sneezes on Me?

Sneez­ing is not a symp­tom of Ebola, Besser said. Nei­ther is cough­ing until the very late stages of the dis­ease, when the per­son is clearly sick and near death. On top of that, the dis­ease is not airborne.

Can I Get Ebola From Someone’s Sweat?

There’s very lit­tle data on how much of the virus is in a sick person’s sweat, Besser said.

He added that car­ry­ing a per­son who is sick with Ebola can be a “risky sit­u­a­tion.” He said one man who had Ebola on a plane didn’t spread it to fel­low pas­sen­gers but inad­ver­tently gave it to the peo­ple who helped carry him once he got off the plane.

Touch­ing the skin — whether he had other body flu­ids or sweat on his skin at that point — was a risk,” Besser said.

What If I Stand Next to Some­one With Ebola on a Subway?

You prob­a­bly won’t catch it in that sit­u­a­tion, said Dr. Jay Varma, New York City’s deputy com­mis­sioner for dis­ease control.

Casual con­tact like you would have some­body pass you on the bus or on the sub­way, I’m not wor­ried about it for myself and I’m not wor­ried about it for my wife and kids,” Varma said.

How Long Can the Virus Sur­vive on Sur­faces Like Table­tops and Doorknobs?

This is one of these areas where we don’t really know enough,” Varma said. “We do know that these viruses can sur­vive on sur­faces for a few hours.”

He said how long it can sur­vive depends on the sur­face and the environment.

Should You Take Pre­cau­tions Before Tak­ing Pub­lic Transportation?

We think this is not a dis­ease that you can get from sim­ply being next to some­body,” Varma said. “Absolutely if some­body vom­its on you or you get their body flu­ids on it, of course you can be at risk, but we think that air­plane travel, trav­el­ing on sub­ways — all of that — is the type of con­tact where this is not a dis­ease that’s transmitted.”

He said he’s more wor­ried about get­ting the flu on pub­lic trans­porta­tion than Ebola.

Is There a Vac­cine Coming?

There are two vac­cines being tested in clin­i­cal tri­als now, Besser said.

There’s a lot of efforts under­way to try and move a vac­cine for­ward but vac­cine devel­op­ment takes a long time,” he said, adding that one of the com­pa­nies work­ing on one has said it won’t know whether it works until 2015.

Even if it does work, it will take more time to manufacture.

What About Other Drugs?

Ebola patients in the United States are receiv­ing exper­i­men­tal drugs, but it’s not yet clear whether they’ve helped, hurt or made no dif­fer­ence in those patients’ out­comes, Besser said.

Why Don’t We Just Close Our Bor­ders to West Africa?

Keep­ing peo­ple from leav­ing the Ebola-affected coun­tries would be a “major mis­take,” Besser said, not­ing that he saw aid work­ers, jour­nal­ists and fam­ily mem­bers aboard his plane on his two trips to Liberia in the last few months, and that let­ting them in and out is important.

You want to make sure that peo­ple who leave that area are being mon­i­tored and doing it safely,” he said. “You want to encour­age peo­ple to go there who have exper­tise and can help these gov­ern­ments, these health work­ers, con­trol this dis­ease. That will save lives there and will also improve the health and pro­tec­tion of Amer­i­cans right here.”

Varma said the biggest con­cern in Amer­ica should be con­tain­ing the out­break in Africa. Until that hap­pens, he said “we will always be at risk.”

You can’t just wrap a wall around these coun­tries and not expect peo­ple to get out,” he said.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio


College Student in San Diego on Life Support After Suffering from Meningitis

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) — A San Diego State Uni­ver­sity stu­dent is on life sup­port after suf­fer­ing from meningitis.

Sara Stelzer, 18, was hos­pi­tal­ized Tues­day, think­ing she had the flu. She is not expected to recover.

Just before she felt sick, Stelzer returned home to Moor­park, Calif. for her high school’s homecoming.

Health offi­cials believe those at most risk of con­tract­ing the bac­te­r­ial infec­tion are peo­ple Stelzer came in close con­tact with in San Diego, where she became deathly ill.

Dr. Gregg Licht­en­stein of San Diego State Uni­ver­sity stu­dent health ser­vices says symp­toms include fever, intense headache, neck stiff­ness, and lethargy. “Also when it gets into your blood­stream, it can result in a rash that kind of looks like lit­tle bruises that get big­ger and big­ger,” Licht­en­stein said.

Par­ent Cindy Lilly is con­cerned her own daugh­ter may be at risk.

My daugh­ter knew her, and we have talked about menin­gi­tis and kind of how you can con­tract it, so it is a big con­cern for us,” Lilly said.

Miranda Lip­son, a friend of Stelzer, is in disbelief.

Friends I know, if one of us got it, we would all get it, but I think peo­ple are here are smart enough not to let it spread around,” Lip­son said. “I hope she’s in a good place right now and I hope that she rests in peace.”

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio


Ebola Scare Turns Dallas Hospital Into a 'Ghost Town'

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — The Dal­las nurses who con­tracted Ebola while treat­ing a patient at Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal have been moved from the build­ing, but patients are still steer­ing clear of the once-bustling hospital.

Peo­ple have called to can­cel out­pa­tient pro­ce­dures, and some have even opted not to go to Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, ABC Dal­las affil­i­ate WFAA reports.

It feels like a ghost town,” Rachelle Cohorn, a local health care ven­dor who has been to the hos­pi­tal recently, told WFAA. “No one is even walk­ing around the hospital.”

Texas Health Presbyterian’s aver­age emer­gency room wait time had been 52 min­utes, accord­ing to fed­eral hos­pi­tal data. But when ABC News called the hos­pi­tal and asked the emer­gency depart­ment for the ER wait time today, the response was that there was no wait time.

The hos­pi­tal has also taken pub­lic rela­tions hits on a num­ber of fronts. It was revealed that Ebola patient Thomas Eric Dun­can was ini­tially sent home from the ER even though he told staff there that he had recently come from West Africa, the epi­cen­ter of the Ebola out­break. And this week, another health care worker who took care Dun­can crit­i­cized the hos­pi­tal admin­is­tra­tion for not pro­vid­ing proper train­ing and equip­ment to nurses car­ing for Duncan.

To weather the storm, the hos­pi­tal will need to con­vince peo­ple that Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian is still a safe hos­pi­tal, said Dr. Dan Varga, the chief clin­i­cal offi­cer of Texas Health Resources, which owns the Dal­las hospital.

I would tell this com­mu­nity that Presby is an absolutely safe hos­pi­tal to come to,” Varga told ABC News chief health and med­ical edi­tor Dr. Richard Besser on Thurs­day. “We’ve been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with our doc­tors that have their pri­vate offices in our pro­fes­sional build­ings around the cam­pus who are get­ting 40, 50, 60 per­cent can­cel­la­tions just for fear of being some­where in the geog­ra­phy of the hos­pi­tal where Ebola is treated.”

Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian became the first hos­pi­tal in the nation to be faced with diag­nos­ing Ebola on Amer­i­can soil when Dun­can, a Liber­ian man vis­it­ing fam­ily in Dal­las, went to the emer­gency room on Sept. 26. He was ini­tially sent home with antibi­otics, but returned two days later in an ambu­lance when his symp­toms wors­ened. The hos­pi­tal put Dun­can in iso­la­tion. He died on Oct. 8.

Two nurses con­tracted Ebola from Dun­can, though how exactly they were exposed remains unknown. Nina Pham, 26, was diag­nosed on Oct. 11, and Amber Vin­son, 29, was diag­nosed on Oct. 15, health offi­cials said.

Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian cared for Pham in iso­la­tion for five days before request­ing that she be moved to another facil­ity. She was flown to an NIH facil­ity in Bethesda, Mary­land, on Oct. 16, and Vin­son was flown to Emory Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal the day before.

Varga told Con­gress on Oct. 16 that the hos­pi­tal staff was never trained to han­dle a patient with Ebola. He said they received guide­lines from the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion in July but never received any face-to-face training.

About 70 staff mem­bers are being mon­i­tored after pos­si­ble expo­sure to the Ebola virus.

Over the long haul is the emo­tional toll going to be some­thing that leaves a mark?” Varga asked. “We have a bunch of employ­ees on sur­veil­lance now because they had con­tact with Mr. Dun­can, with Nina, with Amber.”

Alex Norm­ing­ton, who works for a national firm that helps hos­pi­tals estab­lish their rep­u­ta­tions, told WFAA that Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian has had a “very good” rep­u­ta­tion since it opened in 1966.

A hospital’s rep­u­ta­tion can take years or gen­er­a­tions to build,” Norm­ing­ton said.

Fed­eral and state hos­pi­tal records also show that Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian had two vio­la­tions over the last five years: one for a nurse who failed to turn a patient over every two hours and another for fail­ing to appro­pri­ately address a patient’s complaint.

Molly Cate, a part­ner with the health care com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pub­lic affairs firm Jar­rard, Cate and Han­cock, which works with hos­pi­tals across the coun­try, said the vio­la­tions did not appear to be out of the ordinary.

Two in five years is not a huge amount,” said Cate. “Health care is very reg­u­lated indus­try. Hos­pi­tals are inspected reg­u­larly, for hun­dreds and thou­sands of things every year.”

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio


Researchers Believe an Ingredient in Wine May Help Men Build Healthier Bones

Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers in Den­mark con­ducted a study that indi­cated an ingre­di­ent in wine may play a role in help­ing men build health­ier bones.

The study, con­ducted by researchers at Aarhus Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal in Den­mark and pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Endocrinol­ogy and Metab­o­lism, looked at data from 74 men between the ages of 30 and 60 with meta­bolic syn­drome. Each man was given resver­a­trol, a com­pound present in nuts and grapes — and thereby, wine — in a range of dosages.

After 16 weeks of receiv­ing those doses, the researchers found that those men who had received the high­est dose of resver­a­trol also had sig­nif­i­cantly higher blood lev­els of bone alka­line phos­phatase, which can be used as a marker for healthy bone turnover. The men with the high­est doses of resver­a­trol also had higher bone min­eral den­sity measurements.

Addi­tional stud­ies will need to be done to deter­mine whether the find­ings are uni­ver­sal, or unique to the pop­u­la­tion that researchers looked at in this study.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio


Texas Health Care Workers Who Treated Ebola Patient Told to Stay Out of Public Places

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — Hos­pi­tal work­ers who treated the Ebola patient who died at a Texas hos­pi­tal are being asked to stay away from any pub­lic space for 21 days.

The Texas Depart­ment of State Health Ser­vices has asked the approx­i­mately 70 health care work­ers at Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal who entered the room of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Dun­can to stay home while they are being mon­i­tored dur­ing the 21-day Ebola incu­ba­tion period.

Cur­rently, health care work­ers are being asked to sign a writ­ten acknowl­edge­ment that they will not enter a pub­lic place. How­ever, if they vio­late that agree­ment or refuse to sign it, the state could pur­sue a court order, which would force them to stay in their home in iso­la­tion dur­ing the allot­ted time.

The three-week time frame is due to the approx­i­mate incu­ba­tion period of the Ebola virus, which is 2 to 21 days.

The agree­ment states that the health care worker will not use pub­lic trans­porta­tion, includ­ing planes, buses or trains, and will also not enter any kind of pub­lic space, includ­ing gro­cery stores and restaurants.

Two nurses from the Texas Health Pres­by­ter­ian were infected after treat­ing Dun­can ear­lier this month. One nurse, Amber Vin­son, trav­eled by plane to Cleve­land for a trip to plan her wed­ding. Offi­cials from the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion said that she might have started feel­ing ill before her first flight and author­i­ties are now work­ing to iden­tify hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers who were on the flights with her and could pos­si­bly be exposed to the virus.

Duncan’s fam­ily mem­bers were ordered to remain in quar­an­tine by court order, after they tem­porar­ily left their home before it had been sanitized.

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio


WHO Declares Ebola Outbreak in Senegal Over

iStock/Thinkstock(DAKAR, Sene­gal) — The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion declared the Ebola out­break over for the nation of Sene­gal, prais­ing the coun­try for its dili­gence and han­dling of the disease.

The first case of the dis­ease in Sene­gal was con­firmed on Aug. 29 in a young man who trav­eled from Guinea, where he had come in con­tact with an Ebola patient, the WHO said in a state­ment. That patient tested neg­a­tive for the dis­ease on Sept. 5, indi­cat­ing that he had recov­ered. He was later allowed to return to Guinea on Sept. 18.

Sene­gal has, since then, “main­tained a high level of active ‘case find­ing’ for 42 days — two times as long as the max­i­mum incu­ba­tion period of the dis­ease with no fur­ther cases reported.

The WHO notes that Sene­gal gov­ern­ment “under laed­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Macky Sall and the Min­is­ter of Health Dr. Awa Coll-Seck, reacted quickly to stop the dis­ease from spreading.”

The government’s response plan included iden­ti­fiy­ing and mon­i­tor­ing 74 close con­tacts of the patient, prompt test­ing of all sus­pected cases, stepped-up sur­veil­lance at the country’s many entry points and nation­wide pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns,” the WHO state­ment read.

While the out­break has been declared over, the WHO notes that Senegal’s “geo­graph­i­cal posi­tion makes the coun­try vul­ner­a­ble to addi­tional imported cases of Ebola.”

Fol­low @ABCNewsRadio
Copy­right 2014 ABC News Radio