WASHINGTON -- The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the government would change its response to Ebola after officials confirmed Sunday a Dallas health care worker had been infected with the virus.
"We have to rethink the way we address Ebola control," CDC director Tom Frieden said at a press conference in Atlanta.
The government confirmed Sunday that a hospital worker who had cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from Ebola at a Dallas hospital last week, had contracted the virus from Duncan. Though more than 8,000 people have been infected in West Africa, the Dallas hospital worker -- identified by local TV station WFAA as 26-year-old Nina Pham -- is the first person to have contracted the virus on U.S. soil.
Frieden said hospitals that care for Ebola have to address two steps in the process: diagnosis and the care itself.
"I think what we recognize is that that care is complex, and we're now working very closely with the hospital to make that care simpler and easier with hands-on training, hands-on oversight and monitoring," Frieden said. As for diagnosis, Frieden said, the CDC would "work with hospitals throughout the country to 'think Ebola' in someone with a fever or other symptoms who has had travel to any of the three affected countries in the previous 21 days."
Though Frieden had said Sunday that the infection had to have resulted from a "breach in protocol," he said Monday he didn't know what that might have been.
"We have not identified a specific problem that led to this infection," Frieden said, though one possibility he mentioned is that health care workers could contract Ebola after removing and handling protective gear still contaminated with the virus.
Frieden also addressed criticism that his "protocol breach" comments amounted to scapegoating the nurse for getting infected.
"That was certainly not my intention," Frieden said. "I feel awful that a health care worker became infected in the care of an Ebola patient. She was there trying to help the first patient survive and now she has become infected."
Frieden said health officials are continuing to monitor 48 people who had contact with Duncan, and none have exhibited symptoms of the virus, though he said additional cases could be discovered in the coming days.