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'Protocol Breach' Cited In Second Case Of Ebola In Dallas

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Public health investigators are trying to figure out how a healthcare worker in Dallas became infected with Ebola. The woman was caring for Thomas Eric Duncan who died of the virus last week. A secondary test conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the diagnosis. This is the first documented transmission of Ebola to occur in the U.S. NPR's Jeff Brady has more from Dallas.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The healthcare worker's name has not been released at her request. She was caring for Thomas Eric Duncan before he died last Wednesday. Like other caregivers, she was monitoring her temperature twice a day. On Friday evening, she reported a fever and within 90 minutes, she was at the hospital in isolation. CDC director Tom Frieden says a test for the Ebola virus came back positive.

TOM FRIEDEN: The level of her symptoms and indications from the test itself suggest that the level of virus that she had was low.

BRADY: Frieden says the positive test means there was a breach in protocol somewhere that led to this infection. Because of that, he's concerned more workers could show signs of infection. Dan Varga is the chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, the company that operates Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

DANIEL VARGA: This individual was following full CDC precautions, which are barrier and droplet - so gown, glove, mask and shield.

BRADY: Varga says the hospital stopped accepting emergency room patients and is triple checking to make sure caregivers are following CDC guidelines. The woman was not considered to be at high risk so she was at home when she became ill. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said a hazardous materials crew from the city's fire department decontaminated the common areas of an apartment complex where she lives. Rawlings says the crew then went to the hospital parking lot and decontaminated the woman's car and anything else she may have touched.

MIKE RAWLINGS: We decontaminated hand railings, everything in the parking lot, so everybody can feel comfortable that the exterior was taking care of.

BRADY: Rawlings says police are guarding the woman's apartment to make sure no one gets inside before those same crews finish their work. Television news helicopters hovered over the neighborhood this morning where the woman lives. Mary Jud lives nearby.

MARY JUD: Well, we were woken by the helicopters. And also we got a call from the city of Dallas at about 7:30 this morning saying that there was an emergency - that there was someone in our area that had tested positive for Ebola.

BRADY: Jud says she feels safe and was glad to receive the call. She also had nothing but praise for the caregiver who got to the hospital. Jud says she's praying for the woman. Back at the CDC in Atlanta, director Tom Frieden says the way to stop Ebola is to break the chain of infection.

FRIEDEN: That's how we have stopped every Ebola outbreak in history except the one currently in West Africa. That's how we stopped it in Lagos, Nigeria. That's how we will stop it in Dallas.

BRADY: Frieden says the caregiver had contact with only one person after she developed symptoms. He says that person is under active monitoring now. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.