Health Officials Tracing Steps of Nurse Who Flew to Cleveland Before Ebola Diagnosis

Image: Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons
Image: Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons
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Amber Vinson is the second Dallas health worker to come down with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan -- the Liberian man who died of the virus in Texas last week.

After Duncan's death, Vinson boarded a plane from Dallas to Cleveland, Frontier Airlines wrote in a statement. She visited family for several days in the Akron suburb of Tallmadge, according to Summit County's medical director.

Cleveland Public Health Director Toinette Parrilla offered a small glimpse into Vinson's trip to Northeast Ohio.

"What I know about Ms. Vinson at this time is...she flew into Cleveland to prepare for her wedding," Parrilla said. "She came in to visit her mother and her mother's fiancee. She departed from Cleveland Hopkins on Monday the 13th and she arrived into Dallas that afternoon."

The next day, in Dallas, Vinson reported feeling ill and later tested positive for Ebola.

In a conference call, CDC Director Thomas Friedan told reporters Vinson had an elevated temperature of 99.5 before boarding -- lower than the Ebola fever threshold. Still, he said she never should have boarded a plane at all, though he insisted she posed a low risk to the 132 passengers.

"The fact that the patient number two did not have a fever until the next day, did not have nausea or vomiting on the plane, suggests to us that the risks to any around that individual on the plane would have been extremely low," Friedan said.

The CDC is now trying to get in touch with those passengers. Meanwhile, Summit County medical Director Margo Erme says health staff are talking with Vinson's family in Northeast Ohio.

"We're looking at being able to construct a good timeline of where the healthcare worker was when she was here, and where she traveled and who she was with," Erme said.

Erme says one family member quarantined himself on Tuesday -- and no one is showing symptoms.

Three of Vinson's family members who work at Kent State University have been sent home for 21 days "out of an abundance of caution," university officials said in a statement. Vinson did not set foot on campus, the statement said.

Meanwhile, three Northeast Ohio hospitals said Wednesday night that nurses and other staff were on an Oct. 10 flight from Dallas to Cleveland with Vinson.

In a joint statement, MetroHealth and the Cleveland Clinic said they have put the nurses on paid leave and "will monitor their health daily." Aultman Hospital in Canton said five of its nurses were aboard the flight to Cleveland -- they also are on paid leave.

"We are confident that these nurses are at low risk of exposure since we understand that the Dallas nurse did not have symptoms at the time," the statement from the three Cleveland hospitals read. "We have taken this measure as an extra precautionary step for our employees, patients, and visitors."

At Cleveland Hopkins Airport, custodians cleaned areas Vinson likely walked through, according to a spokeswoman.

There are no reported cases of Ebola in Ohio and the risk of transmission is said to be low. Still, the Ohio health department says CDC workers are en route.

An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that there were University Hospital nurses on a flight back from Dallas. There were not.

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