DALLAS – A second nurse who treated Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan has been diagnosed with the deadly disease a day after flying from Ohio to Texas, officials said.
The nurse, identifed by her family as Amber Joy Vinson, 29, reported a fever on Tuesday and was immediately isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, officials said.
The CDC said Vinson was not experiencing symptoms at the time of her flight, but is asking all 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth which landed at 8:16 p.m. Monday to call 1-800-CDC-INFO.
“After 1 p.m. E.T., public health professionals will begin interviewing passengers about the flight, answering their questions, and arranging follow up,” the CDC said in a statement. “Individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”
Vinson was among 76 hospital workers who cared for Duncan, a Liberian citizen who died from Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian a week ago.
At an early morning news conference, a bleary eyed Dr. Daniel Varga, the hospital’s chief clinical officer, called Vinson’s inefection “an unprecedented crisis.”
“This is a heroic person, a person who has dedicated her life to helping others and is a servant leader,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said during a news conference.
Jenkins called the second diagnosis a “gut shot” to the hospital staff. He acknowledged that officials are making contingency plans and that others who treated Duncan may develop Ebola as well.
“That is a very real possibility,” he said.
It wasn’t immediately known how the Vinson contracted the disease, but Varga said, “It’s clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime in their treatment of Mr. Duncan.”
“We’re a hospital that may have done some things different with the benefit of what we know today,” he said. “Make no mistake, no one wants to get this right more than our hospital.”
The latest positive test for Ebola was determined at about midnight Tuesday at a state laboratory in Austin.
A hazardous-materials team is now decontaminating Vinson’s Dallas apartment in a community not far from the hospital. City officials said she lived alone and had no pets.
Vinson, a nurse in Texas for two years according to state records, was reportedly in Ohio visiting family near Akron. She arrived in Cleveland last Saturday on Frontier flight 1142, according to the airline.
Vinson becomes the third person to be diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas since Sept. 30. City officials addressed the public early Wednesday.
“I continue to believe that while Dallas is anxious about this — and, with this news this morning, the anxiety level goes up a level — we are not fearful,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.”
Duncan, who had travelled from West Africa to Dallas days before becoming ill, was the first person to ever be diagnosed with the virus in the United States. The disease, for which there is no known cure, has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa in 2014, the World Health Organization estimates.
Duncan, 42, was treated at Texas Health Presbyterian for 10 days before his death. Last Friday, 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham began running a fever while at home and went to the hospital, where she was isolated. She tested positive for Ebola on Sunday. Hospital officials reported that she was in good condition as of late Tuesday.
Texas Health Presbyterian officials have said Pham wore protective clothing and insist that staff followed safety precautions issued by federal officials. How Pham, a nurse for four years, contracted Ebola hasn’t been determined, but CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden has said he believes there was a breach in safety procedures.
Pham’s diagnosis sparked immediate concern for workers at Texas Health Presbyterian. On Tuesday, the CDC said 76 health care workers who could have come in contact with Duncan were being monitored for symptoms.
“As we have said before, because of our ongoing investigation, it is not unexpected that there would be additional exposures,” the CDC said in a written statement early Wednesday. “An additional health care worker testing positive for Ebola is a serious concern, and the CDC has already taken active steps to minimize the risk to health care workers and the patient.”
News of the third Ebola infection comes a day after the largest U.S. nurses’ union alleged that some Texas Health Presbyterian workers had reported that nurses treated Duncan for days without proper protective gear and faced constantly changing protocols.
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of Nurses United, said the allegations came from “several” and “a few” nurses, but she refused repeated inquiries to state how many, the Associated Press reported. She said that the organization had vetted the claims and that the nurses cited were in a position to know what had occurred at the hospital. She refused to elaborate.
A hospital spokesman did not respond to specific claims by the nurses but said the hospital has not received similar complaints.
Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).