U.S. Preparing Tighter Infection Controls for Ebola Patients: Report

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SUNDAY, Oct. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials are planning to tighten recommendations for health care workers treating Ebola patients.

The new guidelines, which haven't been formally unveiled, are expected to include recommendations for full-body suits and hoods "with no skin showing." There will also be stricter rules for removing equipment and disinfecting hands, and the designation of a "site manager" to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment used to treat a patient, the Associated Press reported.

The revised guidelines are apparently in response to two nurses in Dallas who became infected with Ebola while treating a patient with the first diagnosed case of the disease in the United States.

Health officials aren't sure how the nurses became infected with the often deadly disease, which has been decimating three West African nations since the spring.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that the nurses caring for the Ebola patient at Texas Presbyterian Hospital had some of their skin exposed, the AP reported.

"Very clearly, when you go into a hospital, have to intubate somebody, have all of the body fluids, you've got to be completely covered. So that's going to be one of the things to be complete covering with no skin showing whatsoever," the news service quoted Fauci as saying.

Also Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the creation of a 30-member team of military personnel to assist civilian medical professionals in the United States if its assistance is needed to treat Ebola. The team will include doctors, nurses and infectious-disease experts, the AP reported.

To date, there have been three cases of Ebola in the United States: the two nurses and the patient they were caring for -- Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who became infected in his country before arriving in Dallas last month to visit relatives. He died at Texas Presbyterian Hospital on Oct. 8.

Early Sunday morning, a cruise ship carrying a lab worker who was being monitored for Ebola because she handled a lab specimen from Duncan returned to its port in Galveston, Texas, cruise line officials said.

The unidentified woman is a laboratory manager at Texas Presbyterian Hospital. She had been voluntarily quarantined aboard the Carnival Magic ship with her husband. She was showing no signs of symptoms of the disease and posed no risk because she has been symptomless for 19 days, federal officials said, according to the AP.

Federal health officials have said that symptoms of Ebola show up within 21 days of exposure to the virus.

Carnival Cruise Lines said it had been told by health officials Sunday morning that the lab worker tested negative for Ebola. A cruise line spokesperson said the woman and her husband drove themselves home after leaving the ship, but offered no other details, the news service said.

And Spanish health authorities reported Sunday that a nurse's aide who had become infected with Ebola while caring for an elderly priest was free of the virus.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama called on Americans not to give in to panic over Ebola. And he repeated his opposition to a travel ban for flights from the three affected countries in West Africa -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said Ebola "is a serious disease, but we can't give in to hysteria or fear -- because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need. We have to be guided by the science."

Some lawmakers have called for a travel ban, but Obama believes such a move would be counterproductive. "Trying to seal off an entire region of the world -- if that were even possible -- could actually make the situation worse," he said.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 4,500 people out of an estimated 9,000 reported cases, according to the World Health Organization.

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the World Health Organization.