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US hospital 'deeply sorry' for Ebola mistakes

Updated: 2014-10-17 09:22

WASHINGTON - A hospital in Texas where an Ebola patient died and two nurses were infected apologized Thursday for mishandling the deadly disease, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) prepared to treat the first nurse who contracted the virus while caring for the deceased.

Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health Resources, told a House subcommittee hearing that errors were made when healthcare workers sent the country's first and now deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan home, even though he had a fever and told them he was from Liberia.

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"Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes," Varga said.

"We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry."

Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, one of the 13 wholly-owned, acute-care hospitals in the Texas Health Resources system, on Sept 25, with Ebola-like symptoms, only to be dismissed with antibiotics.

Duncan was transported to the hospital by ambulance on Sept 28 as his condition worsened. He tested positive for Ebola two days later and died on Oct 8.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Thursday it will admit the first US nurse who contracted the Ebola virus from Duncan, saying it's at the request of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

"Tonight, we will be admitting to the ... Special Clinical Studies Unit at the National Institutes Of Health Nina Pham, otherwise known as nurse number one," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH.

"She will be coming to the National Institutes of Health where we'll be supplying her with the state-of-the-art care in our high-level containment facilities."

A statement from the NIH, located near Washington DC, said the isolation unit is "specifically designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious diseases and critical care specialists."

The nurse, 26-year-old Nina Pham, was diagnosed with the virus after providing patient care to the country's first and now deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan.

Pham's colleague, 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, tested positive for Ebola Wednesday, and was transported late Wednesday to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where two Ebola patients brought back from West Africa have been successfully treated.

US media reported Vinson was cleared to by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fly Monday even after she reported a slight fever of 37.5 degrees Celsius.

CDC Director Tom Frieden confirmed Thursday at the hearing that the nurse did contact the CDC before boarding a passenger flight.

"We discussed with her her reported symptoms as well as other evaluation," he said. "My understanding is that she reported no symptoms to us."

Meanwhile, the White House said in a statement that President Barack Obama convened a meeting Thursday afternoon with members of his team coordinating the government's Ebola response.

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