By: Mike Brill – Staff Writer
Ebola panic hit Ohio Wednesday, Oct. 15, as news broke that a Dallas nurse with Ebola visited the Cleveland-Akron area.
Nurse Amber Joy Vinson was visiting family in the Akron area. She flew into Cleveland Friday, Oct. 10, and returned to Dallas Monday, Oct. 13. She was diagnosed with Ebola the following day.
Vinson is the second American to contract Ebola while in the United States. Commonly referred to as “the second nurse,” her visit has made Ebola a hot topic in Ohio and among University of Dayton students. Some Ohioians are hysterical, believing that the disease is a much greater threat than officials say it is. For others, the disease is something to joke about or a reason to point to the failures of a politician or a political party.
Vinson, 29, had not been experiencing symptoms when she left Dallas. She had begun to develop a 99.5 degree fever when she departed Cleveland. She called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before her flight and asked if she should board. The CDC permitted her to board because her fever was below 100.4 degrees, the threshold for an Ebola victim to be considered contagious.
Vinson had been treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the deceased Dallas man who was the first person diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. Vinson was extremely involved in his care. She drew his blood and inserted catheters, according to The Associated Press.
This kind of involvement would not normally cause somebody to contract Ebola. Those assisting Ebola patients wear gloves, gowns, goggles and face masks, as mandated by the CDC. The CDC has not yet released specifics on what caused Vinson to contract the disease.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden has, however, pointed to a protocol breach in Dallas’ handling of the situation. Frieden said the nurses may have been wearing more protective gear than necessary.
“By putting on more layers of gloves or other protective clothing, it becomes much harder to take them off,” Frieden said. “The risk of contamination during the process of taking these [layers] off gets much higher.”
Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. If Vinson contacted Duncan’s blood while removing her equipment, she could have contaminated herself.
The disease is not airborne. It is unlikely that someone in the vicinity of Vinson in northeast Ohio would have contracted the disease, according to the CDC.
Officials also say her fever was not high enough to indicate she was contagious during her visit. Ebola symptoms can take up to 21 days to exhibit themselves and the disease becomes increasingly contagious as symptoms worsen. CDC officials point to these factors when calming public fears over the disease.
The events in Ohio were addressed by top elected officials. President Barack Obama cleared his schedule Oct. 15 to convene his Ebola cabinet, deliver a statement in light of the events as well as calls from House Speaker John Boehner to consider a travel ban on West African countries.
“I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban,” the president said. “The problem is that in all the discussions I’ve had, thus far, with experts in the field … is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures we are currently instituting.”
Gov. John Kasich canceled campaign appointments Oct. 15 to address the situation. Kasich met with Frieden to request additional support. The CDC granted his request and sent manpower to Ohio to assist the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) in tracking who Vinson had contact with during her time in the area.
Ohio Department of Health officials have released quarantine guidelines as a result of this collaboration with the CDC. Those who had direct contact with Vinson have been quarantined, and those who had been in her vicinity are being monitored by state and federal health officials.
Fourty-three Texans who had been in the vicinity of Duncan, meanwhile, are now free to resume their normal lives after 21 days in quarantine.
“This simply supports what most of us who know something about the disease have been saying all along: it’s not that easily spread,” Joseph McCormick, former CDC Ebola worker, said.
The Ohio Department of Health is nevertheless preparing for an outbreak. The Ohio Controlling Board granted $800,000 to the ODH Monday to pay for an emergency biohazard team and protective equipment for state health workers, if needed.
UD students were on midterm break during the weekend Vinson was in Ohio. UD students would not have flown on the same plane after she landed in Dallas. The plane did not travel to Dayton International Airport or the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.