Ebola Update: Only 1 Person Had Contact with Infected Nurse

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas (Image credit: Texas Health Resources)

Only one person has had contact with the second person to develop Ebola in Texas during the time when she might have been contagious, health officials said today (Oct. 13).

The second person with Ebola in Dallas is a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. She was involved in caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

It is still unclear how the nurse contracted the virus despite wearing protective gear. She is now being treated and is in a stable condition, according to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials have identified one person who had contact with the nurse and are monitoring that person for any signs of the disease. Other people who cared for Duncan will be monitored formally as well, Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director, said in a news conference today.

"We are doing a detailed investigation to better understand what might have happened," and at which step of Duncan's treatment the nurse might have contracted the virus, Frieden said. "Even a single infection is unacceptable," he said.

The nurse came down with a fever Friday night, and tested positive for Ebola. The CDC confirmed the case on Sunday (Oct. 12) after performing a second test. She is the first person to contract Ebola within the United States. (Duncan contracted the disease in Liberia.)

As a precautionary measure, the nurse was monitoring herself for any signs of infection, and sought care when she developed symptoms. The CDC had previously been monitoring about 48 people who had contact with Duncan before he was isolated and received treatment. Health officials will now formally monitor the people who treated Duncan and will identify people who had contact with the second case.

People can get infected with Ebola if they have direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person or with objects such as contaminated needles. It can take from two to 21 days for an infected person to start showing symptoms, such as fever. After 21 days, if an exposed person has not developed symptoms, they will not become sick with Ebola, according to the CDC. [5 Things You Should Know About Ebola]

"Every hospital in this country needs to think about the possibility of Ebola in anyone with a fever who has travelled to West Africa in the past 21 days," Frieden said.

Since early 2014, more than 8,300 people have become ill and more than 4,000 have died of Ebola in the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Email Bahar Gholipour. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.