The topic of Ebola has dominated Sunday talk shows and appeared in prime time during last night’s episode of “60 Minutes,” once again putting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s capability to contain the outbreak in the national spotlight.
The feature segment examined the first U.S. Ebola case diagnosed at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and the harrowing tale of the nurses who helped care for the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan.
One nurse said she was frightened, but determined to help — which meant everything from cleaning projectile vomit off the walls to simply comforting the patient since his family could not. “I didn’t allow fear to paralyze me. I got myself together. I’d done what I needed to get myself prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically, and went in there and did what I was supposed to,” she said.
Another nurse, with tears streaming down his own face, described wiping tears away from Duncan’s eyes in the final moments before he died.
The nurses largely defended their care for the patient — whom they described as kind and appreciative — and said they followed all the protocols they were given by the CDC, including wearing protective gear, which was initially suggested that left their necks exposed. Two of the nurses who cared for Duncan have since been diagnosed with, and overcome, Ebola.
The CDC has taken heat for not having sufficient guidelines in place by the time the first Ebola case came to the U.S. and putting health care workers at risk. CQ Roll Call reporter Melissa Attias explains further:
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency expected to restore order during public health crises, is on the defensive amid questions about whether it’s capable of performing its duties as a front-line agency.
Nearly everyone agrees that the Atlanta-based agency erred when it made blanket assurances that U.S. hospitals were capable of treating Ebola cases. But lofty expectations from the public may also be fueling the discontent, as well as misconceptions about the CDC’s role in responding to health threats.
Now officials are scrambling to regain the confidence of the public and health care workers as elevated fears about the often fatal virus play out in a highly partisan pre-election environment.
‘We got hit by something we never had to deal with so far in this way,’ said Scott Burris, professor and co-director of Temple University’s Center for Health Law, Policy and Practice. ‘I think we have had a myth of preparedness to some degree.’
Although officials haven’t pinpointed how the nurses got infected, much of the criticism has focused on whether proper personal protective gear and clear guidelines were in place for health care workers.”