A three year nurse at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital told a local television station she fears Ebola may be airborne.
“We are wondering if it really is contact in airborne or contact in a breach of protocol,” she said. “We really don’t know.”
The nurse made the remarks after fellow nurse Nina Pham contracted the deadly disease. Pham had treated patient zero Thomas Eric Duncan who died from the disease last week.
Dallas officials have ordered an investigation into how the 26 year old woman contracted the disease. A HazChem team fumigated her apartment over the weekend.
On Monday the CDC said Pham contracted Ebola after a breach of protocol. The federal agency said she removed her protective equipment.
"When you have potentially soiled or contaminated gloves or masks or other things, to remove those without any risk of any contaminated material… touching you and being then on your clothes or face or skin… is not easy to do right,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.
Bonnie Castillo, leader of National Nurses United, criticized the CDC for blaming Pham. “You don’t scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak. We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct,” she said.
Other nurses, however, are concerned the disease is now airborne. They are joined by national experts on respiratory protection and infectious disease transmission who believe Ebola may now in fact be airborne.
“We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks,” wrote Dr. Lisa M Brosseau and Dr. Rachael Jones in September for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Peter Jahrling, the chief scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases where he oversees the emerging viral pathogens section, believes the latest strain of Ebola is more virulent than previous strains and also has the potential to become airborne.
“You can argue that any time the virus replicates it’s going to mutate,” Jahrling told Vox on Monday. “So there is a potential for the thing to acquire an aerogenic property but that would have to be a dramatic change.”