120 people on Ebola watch list in US

About 120 people are still being monitored for signs of Ebola
in Dallas — the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in the
United States — as dozens of others came out of the three-
week observation period Monday, health authorities said.

Dallas officials declared 43 people who may have had
contact with the first diagnosed Ebola patient on U.S. soil —
Thomas Eric Duncan — free of the deadly virus at a press
conference held Monday morning.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called the day a “milestone
day,” implying that the first group of people possibly
exposed to Ebola in the country are cleared of the risk now.

“We are breathing a little easier,” Rawlings said, “but we are
still holding our breath a fair amount until Nov. 7.”

The mayor said 120 people on the watch list, 75 of them
hospital staffers involved in treating Duncan, will come out
of the quarantine period on Nov. 7. The incubation period of
Ebola is 21 days at most, and the virus is communicable
only after symptoms are shown.

The remaining on the list includes those who had contact
with two nurses confirmed to be the only two transmission
cases in the country till now.

The two victims, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson,
contracted the virus when caring for Duncan. They were
moved out of Dallas last week to special isolation units in
Bethesda, Maryland and Atlanta, respectively. Both of them
are reportedly in fair condition.

Vinson was on a commercial flight from Ohio to Dallas the
day before she was diagnosed with Ebola, exposing more
than 100 passengers to risk. About 87 of them are being
monitored in Ohio, while most of the rest are in Dallas.

Vinson said she got permission from the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dallas authorities
before boarding the plane. She was believed to be already
showing symptoms before taking the flight.

The incident has brought the CDC and Dallas officials under
fire and sparked outcries from the public. Clay Jenkins, the
top administrator for Dallas County, apologized for the lapse
Monday.

“It was a mistake” for Vinson to have flown “and we
apologize,” Jenkins said at the press conference.

The CDC reportedly will soon release an updated safety
protocols for health care workers treating Ebola patients.

The revised guidance, modeled after a World Health
Organization (WHO) guideline, will be more stringent and
will set a firmer standard in protecting health care workers,
according to officials familiar with the new guidelines.

The guidelines will call for full-body suits and hoods that
protect worker’s necks, set rigorous rules for removal of
equipment and disinfection of hands, and call for a “site
manager” to supervise the putting on and taking off of
equipment.

The move came amid protests from health care workers
who claim safety protocols for Ebola treatment are
insufficient and outdated. The two infected nurses were
believed wearing protective suits that did not cover their
necks.

The CDC said earlier that a “breach of protocol” led to the
infections, but the agency so far has not figured out what
went wrong exactly.

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