A Dallas nurse who has Ebola and is being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment never should have flown on a commercial airliner, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
The nurse, identified by Ohio health officials as 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, is reported to have traveled from Cleveland to Dallas on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 on Monday, a day before she began showing symptoms of the potentially deadly disease, the CDC said.
Vinson had gone to Ohio to prepare for her upcoming wedding and to visit her mother and fiance, Cleveland Public Health Director Toinette Parrilla said Wednesday.
Vinson returned to Dallas on Oct. 13 and the next day reported a low-grade fever and was isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. On Wednesday afternoon Vinson boarded a charter jet that would ferry her to Atlanta so that she could be treated at Emory University Hospital, the same hospital that treated and cured Fort Worth Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol.
The Frontier flight crew from the flight Vinson took said she showed no signs or symptoms of Ebola while on board the flight.
However, because she developed Ebola symptoms so soon after flying, the CDC wants to interview all 132 passengers on the flight. Those passengers are considered low-risk but are asked to call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).
On Wednesday afternoon Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he planned to enact a legal control order restricting the travel of health care workers who treated Ebola patient Thomas Duncan by blocking them from using public transportation, including buses and airliners.
The control order would give the county legal authority to restrict the movement of those being monitored for the potentially deadly virus.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden on a Wednesday conference call that the patient, or anyone who had contact with a known Ebola patient, should not have been onboard a commercial airliner.
“The second health care worker reported no symptoms and no fever. However, because at that point she was in a group of individuals known to have exposure to Ebola, she should not have traveled on a commercial airline,” Frieden said.
Frieden said that "from this moment forward,” the CDC will "ensure no other individual” monitored for exposure will travel by means other than what he called "controlled movement," a definition that includes travel in cars or chartered plane.
Fort Worth Family in Quarantine for 21 Days
A letter sent to parents in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD on Wednesday said a family member of a Lake Pointe Elementary School student was on the same flight from Cleveland with Vinson.
The district said the family member is in the military and is stationed at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth.
The family, none of whom are exhibiting symptoms, the district said, will remain in quarantine for 21 days as a precautionary measure, upon advisement from the military.
Ohio to Track Possible Ebola Exposure
Vinson flew from Dallas-Fort Worth to Cleveland on Frontier Flight 1142 on Friday, Oct. 10, the airline said, and visited family in Akron. She flew back three days later, on Monday, one day before she was hospitalized.
The Cleveland Clinic and The MetroHealth System had employees on the Frontier flight from Dallas to Cleveland, returning from a nursing conference in Texas. In a joint statement with University Hopital, both health systems have placed those employees on plaid leave while their health is being monitored.
"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. We have taken this measure as an extra precautionary step for our employees, patients, and visitors," they said.
State and local health officials in Ohio are working with the CDC to identify people who may have been in close contact with Vinson while she was in the state, the state health department said Wednesday. They will quarantine as necessary and are confident in their efforts to "respond efficiently and effectively."
Vinson has three relatives who are employees of her alma mater Kent State University in Akron, school spokesman Eric Mansfield confirmed, but he said she did not visit the campus and no one has been quarantined as a result of her visit.
The university is, however, asking Vinson's family to remain off campus for 21 days and to self-monitor, per CDC protocol.
"It's important to note that the patient was not on the Kent State campus," said Kent State President Beverly Warren. "She stayed with her family at their home in Summit County and did not step foot on our campus. We want to assure our university community that we are taking this information seriously, taking steps to communicate what we know."
Vinson graduated from Kent State with degrees in 2006 and 2008, after having graduated from Firestone High School in Akron in 2003.
Airport, Airline Clean Up After New Diagnosis
The Frontier Airlines plane on which Vinson had flown Monday was decontaminated twice and was being put back into service on Wednesday for a flight to Denver, Cleveland officials said Wednesday.
The airline had removed the plane from service earlier in the day after Vinson tested positive for Ebola. The plane was cleaned again at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Wednesday, airport spokeswoman Jacqueline Mayo said.
Key parts of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport were also being disinfected, and all airport employees have been provided personal protection equipment, city officials said. The airport has implemented its infectious disease protocol, and efforts are said to exceed CDC guidelines.
Frontier said the flight Vinson had flown to Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday had landed at 8:16 p.m. that night and was parked overnight at the airport.
It was cleaned, consistent with CDC standards per normal end-of-day procedures, and returned to service Tuesday, the airline said. The aircraft was cleaned again, per normal procedures, in Cleveland at the end of the flight day Tuesday, Frontier Airlines CEO David Siegel said.
In a statment to his employees on Wednesday, Frontier Airlines' CEO David Siegel announced that he has placed two pilots and four flight attendants on paid leave for 21 days "out of an abundance of caution."
Airline stocks tumbled Wednesday after the news that Vinson had flown just before her diagnosis. Shares of the major U.S. airlines were down between 4 percent and 6 percent in midday trading Wednesday.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Frontier Airlines CEO David Siegel.