Ebola Patient Took Flight Before Falling Ill

Nurse Amber Vinson tested positive for Ebola one day after flying from Cleveland to Dallas.

On 15 October, nurse Amber Vinson was the identified as the second employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to test positive for the Ebola virus. Both Vinson and Nina Pham were exposed to patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died on 8 October at that facility.

Initial reports on 14 October 2014 stated Vinson was tested and isolated rapidly after she reported a fever. Later that day, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed Vinson was a passenger on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 one day before she fell ill.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer paraphrased CDC director Thomas Friedan’s remarks from a conference call on 14 October. The paper said Friedan stated Vinson should not have traveled after being exposed to Duncan:

CDC director Tom Frieden said during a conference call this afternoon that all the healthcare workers being monitored in Dallas should only have been allowed “controlled movement,” that is, travel by charter plane or private car, in order to avoid potentially exposing others to the Ebola virus. People with Ebola exposure are also supposed to notify authorities of any travel within 21 days of their exposure to the virus.

Friedan confirmed all 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 would be contacted as a preventive measure. The CDC director stated all passengers are at a low risk of contracting Ebola:

The fact that the patient did not have a [high] fever until the next day and did not have nausea or vomiting until the next day suggests to us that the risk to anyone around the individual on the plane would be extremely low, but we’ll always put in extra margins of safety. She did not vomit, she was not bleeding. So the level of risk to those around her would be very low.

While aboard the 13 October flight Vinson had a low-grade fever of 99 degrees but was otherwise asymptomatic. Friedan stated Vinson, who had “extensive contact” with Duncan before his death, “should not have traveled on a commercial airline.” Later that day, Fox 4 News reported the CDC cleared Vinson to fly with a low-grade fever:

On 14 October, The Dallas Morning News reported full protocols for Ebola infection were not observed for the first two days of Duncan’s hospitalization, and implemented only when the patient tested positive for the virus on 30 September.

Last updated:   15 October 2014