This is a developing story. Updates to come as more information becomes available.
Various reports now making their way through social networks and alternative media sources claim that Nina Pham’s boyfriend may have been admitted to a Dallas-area hospital. It is not clear whether the individual was showing symptoms of the virus or if he has been quarantined as a precautionary measure. According to NBC DFW, “Texas Health Presbyterian is monitoring the patient based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol.”
Ms. Pham is the first person to contract the virus in the United States after being one of several medical personnel to provide care for the late Thomas Duncan, who arrived in America from West Africa two weeks ago.
According to reports Pham’s boyfriend works for Fort Worth-based eye care firm Alcon. A letter from Alcon CEO Jeff George sent to employees on Monday says that one of the company’s associates was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian. George specifically notes in the letter that the individual who has been admitted was not showing symptoms of the virus, but there are contradicting reports with some suggesting that the individual admitted to the hospital was showing Ebola-like symptoms.
Letter to Alcon employees:
It is believed that Nina Pham’s parents and boyfriend are employees of Alcon.
Alcon officials said they are confident that there is no risk for their associates after a consultation with the Texas Department of Health.
The Ebola virus has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days according to the CDC. This means that even though Pham had only been showing symptoms for a short period of time before being admitted to the hospital, it is possible that the individual identified by Alcon could have been exposed to the virus before Pham realized she was getting sick. With a two day incubation period, had her boyfriend been exposed it’s possible that he could have showed a more rapid onset of symptoms than Pham or Duncan.
The Centers for Disease control and Texas Health Presbyterian have yet to confirm if the new patient has tested positive for the virus, but some scattered reports online say that tests have actually confirmed infection. These reports have not been independently verified or confirmed.
If it turns out that this individual has Ebola he would be the first non-medical person in the United States to contract the virus, a development that could further stoke panic across America.
The CDC has maintained that they are prepared for Ebola even though director Thomas Frieden admitted yesterday that they have to rethink the way Ebola control protocols are implemented. It’s an admission that has brought further criticism to the agency, which has a $6.6 billion yearly budget, for their failure to implement effective quarantine and control procedures.
The latest potential case in Dallas highlights fears that the Ebola virus may have spread from Thomas Duncan, who was symptomatic two weeks ago, to the general population. With the high end of the incubation period being 21 days, if Duncan infected others then those cases will start showing up at hospitals within the next week.
Should this be the case, and more people become infected with the virus, it is only a matter of time before it makes its way to other major metropolitan areas. It’s also possible that, because of a lack of sufficient screening procedures and flight restrictions, more infected individuals from West Africa or elsewhere could eventually arrive in the United States.
Other than repeating that they have things under control, the CDC has failed to issue any pandemic preparedness guidelines to the general public. Even hospitals across the country lack a single standard for dealing with the virus.
The lack of information from the CDC and a concerned American public has led to panic buying of critical medical supplies like WHO-recommended respirator masks, protective body suits, goggles, gloves and pandemic kits to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
This is a developing report. Updates will be made available as more information is released.