Dallas Nurse Amber Vinson No Longer Has Ebola — Will Craig Spencer Be Cured Next?
President Obama might be giving out another hug today. The second nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who contracted Ebola, Amber Vinson, is Ebola-free, according to a news release from Emory University Hospital. It's the second piece of good news to come this week surrounding the disease — just days ago, Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola, was also declared free of the disease, receiving a hug from President Obama to celebrate the good news.
Both Vinson and Pham contracted Ebola while treating Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who passed away from the disease earlier this month after having been sent home from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital despite running a high fever. Though it's unclear exactly how the two nurses caught Ebola, the hospital came under fire for not equipping its staff with enough training to adequately treat the disease. (The hospital, for its part, released a statement saying it had gone "above and beyond CDC recommendations" while treating Duncan.)
Though we've heard from Pham and other Texas nurses, we'll get a chance to hear Vinson's side of the story — the nurse will be present at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. And it's possible she will be fielding questions about more than her good condition. After news broke that Vinson had contracted Ebola, she — and the CDC — came under fire for flying just one day before showing symptoms.
Anger surrounding the fact that Vinson wasn't quarantined after treating Duncan echoed criticisms lobbed at Dr. Craig Spencer, the Doctors Without Borders health professional who tested positive for Ebola after sight-seeing and dining out in New York City. The ensuing hysteria regarding Spencer's extra-curricular activities led New York Gov. Andrew Guomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to mandate quarantines for those who have treated Ebola patients, sparking discussion about human rights. After all, say critics of the quarantine, Spencer was following rules by self-monitoring his condition, and immediately told authorities when he developed a fever — Ebola is only contagious once a victim becomes symptomatic. As The New York Times wrote:
Two ambitious governors — Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York — fed panic by imposing a new policy of mandatory quarantines for all health care workers returning from the Ebola-stricken countries of West Africa through John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty international airports. There is absolutely no public health justification for mandatory quarantines ... Lost in this grandstanding was one essential point. The danger to the public in New York in the case of Dr. Craig Spencer, who had worked in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders, was close to nonexistent.
And overreaction could hurt efforts to stop the disease in the future. As WHO reports that 5,000 medical professionals are needed in West Africa to halt the outbreak, the quarantines could discourage those professionals from heading overseas to assist victims. As Doctors Without Borders nurse Kaci Hickox said after being quarantined at Newark's University Hospital under Christie's mandate,
It is not the recommendation of public health and medical experts at this point. To make me stay for 21 days…to put me through this emotional and physical stress is completely unacceptable.
Since the mandate, however, the governors have altered the rules surrounding the quarantine, allowing those who came into contact with Ebola patients to monitor at home. (Hickox has since relocated to her home in Maine.) But while Spencer was being vilified in the news, his condition worsened — the doctor, currently being treated at New York's Bellevue, has begun to suffer gastrointestinal symptoms after coming down with a high fever.
Still, after seeing Vinson and Pham's recovery, Spencer's chances seem good. Not only did he catch his symptoms early, but he's currently receiving plasma from Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol, a method that has thus far proved to be effective.
That said, hysteria has hardly dissipated, regardless of the good news surrounding Pham and Vinson. Christie appeared on NBC's Today Tuesday to say his quarantine mandate will not change ("I don't think it's draconian," he told Matt Lauer), and the CDC is continuing to refine its screening rules for travelers.
And, to prove that everything surrounding Ebola is just terrible, there's this:
Sigh. At least Vinson gave us some good news.