A total of 120 people are still being monitored for Ebola infection due to possible contact with one of three people diagnosed with the disease in Dallas, health officials in Texas said Monday as they noted that dozens more had being cleared of having the virus.
Some 43 people on the original watch list have now passed the 21-day incubation period for the disease and are in the clear, the officials said.
“There's zero risk that any of those people who have been marked off the list have Ebola. They were in contact with a person who had Ebola and the time period for them to get Ebola has lapsed. It is over. They do not have Ebola,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said at a news conference.
But others who cared for the three known cases in Dallas — Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola on Oct. 8 at a Dallas hospital, and two nurses who tended to Duncan, Amber Vinson and Nina Pham — remain at risk. Nov. 7 is when the wait period will end for all of those being monitored.
Texas health officials also said they were unaware that federal officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had allowed Vinson to take a commercial flight the day before she was diagnosed with the virus, even though she reported having a slightly elevated temperature before getting on the plane. "It was a mistake" for Vinson to have flown "and we apologize," Jenkins said.
Nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital held a news conference on Monday in support of their hospital.
The news conference came in the aftermath of the largest U.S. nurses’ union last week saying that sloppy Ebola protocols were in place during the treatment of Duncan.
Chief Nursing Officer Cole Edmonson told reporters that he and his fellow nurses are “proud of what we do and proud of our hospital,” while calling Pham and Vinson “heroes.”
“We’re a family, and we’re a proud family,” Edmonson said, while asking the community to stand with the nurses as they worked to reaffirm trust in the hospital.
Separately, officials said Sunday that a lab worker, who had voluntarily isolated herself in her cabin on a cruise ship during a Caribbean vacation, had tested negative for Ebola.
She works at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Duncan was treated, and while she did not have contact with him, she might have come into contact with test samples from him.
The worker disembarked with other passengers when the Carnival Magic cruise ship docked at Galveston, Texas, on Sunday after a weeklong cruise during which the ship was denied docking by Belize and Mexico because the lab worker was on board.
A series of Ebola scares and missteps have rattled the United States since Duncan was diagnosed, jolting some Americans' faith in the medical system’s ability to deal with serious contagious illnesses.
A top U.S. health official said Sunday that the government would issue strict new guidelines telling American health workers to completely cover their skin and hair when dealing with Ebola patients.
Previous guidelines had allowed some skin exposure. The virus is spread through direct contact with the blood and bodily fluids of infected people.
In addition, the U.S. military plans to create an emergency response team made up of infectious disease doctors, nurses and trainers to help in the event of an Ebola crisis in the United States. The team would not be deployed in West Africa or elsewhere overseas.
The U.S. government's newly appointed Ebola czar, lawyer Ron Klain, was due to start work this week with a mandate to ease Americans' anxiety over the virus and improve federal coordination with states to control its spread.
In West Africa, the worst outbreak on record of Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The World Health Organization declared Nigeria free of Ebola on Monday after a 42-day period with no new cases — a success story for African nations struggling to contain the virus. On Sunday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged stronger international action to control the epidemic, saying the disease was unleashing an economic catastrophe that would leave a “lost generation” of young West Africans.
Al Jazeera and wire services