Pentagon preps Ebola ‘strike team’ including 5 doctors, 20 nurses

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(CNN) — The U.S. military is forming a 30-person “quick strike team” equipped to provide direct treatment to Ebola patients inside the United States, a Defense Department official told CNN’s Barbara Starr on Sunday.

A Pentagon spokesman later confirmed portions of the official’s information.

The team will be under orders to deploy within 72 hours at any time over the next month, the official said.

The Department of Health and Human Services requested the military team, and the Pentagon has given verbal approval, the official said.

The team will include five doctors, 20 nurses and five trainers, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

The Pentagon has been working to determine what assistance it could offer the civilian health care sector following a White House meeting last week during which President Barack Obama said he wanted a more aggressive response, according to two Defense officials.

“In response to a request by the Department of Health and Human Services — and as an added prudent measure to ensure our nation is ready to respond quickly, effectively, and safely in the event of additional Ebola cases in the United States — (Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel) today ordered his Northern Command Commander, Gen. Chuck Jacoby, to prepare and train a 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States,” Kirby said.

Jacoby is already working with the military to source and to form the joint team, Kirby said, and once formed, it will head to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for up to seven days of training in infection control and personal protective equipment. The training, provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, will begin “within the next week or so,” Kirby said.

The team will remain in “prepare-to-deploy” status for 30 days, he said. It will be able to respond anywhere in the U.S. if “deemed prudent by our public health professionals,” he said.

Cruise passenger cleared

Sunday’s news out of the Pentagon came as a cruise ship plowed through the waters of a Texas port with precious cargo on board — the end of a small Ebola scare. A passenger had been loosely linked to the only patient to die from the disease in the United States, but health authorities cleared her after an odyssey at sea.

After voluntarily isolating herself in her cabin, she remained symptom-free, and her lab tests looked good, the Galveston County Health Authority said. She and a travel partner were allowed to disembark.

The drama goes back to the woman’s work as a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the center of a maelstrom of Ebola fears in the United States.

It’s where Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan was misdiagnosed and later died, and where two nurses became the first people to contract Ebola in America.

Seventy-five health workers and 48 people in the community are under monitoring after coming into contact with Duncan. The monitoring period for the 48 community members ends at midnight Sunday night, said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who is overseeing response efforts in Dallas.

“Thankfully they are all asymptomatic and it looks like none of them will get Ebola,” Jenkins said, expressing hope that they would be welcomed home with no issues. “The community needs to reach out and envelop them in compassion and acceptance because we cannot have the community stigmatizing people. … They have been through a terrible ordeal.”

As for the other 75 people, they are in Day 11 of 21 since Duncan’s death and Jenkins said, “Today is a crucial day for them because is one of the last high-likelihood days that we will see more cases.”

Hospital apologizes

On Sunday, the hospital took out a full-page newspaper ad, once again offering an apology.

We slipped up; we’re deeply sorry; we’ll do better.

That could serve as a summary of the open letter from Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan in the Sunday editions of the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The turmoil started in September, when Duncan went to the hospital with Ebola symptoms, and health care workers initially sent him home with antibiotics.

They recorded his travel history to West Africa, where a raging Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people. But they didn’t give that detail the necessary attention, the hospital said.

“As an institution, we made mistakes in handling this very difficult challenge,” Berdan wrote. The hospital is analyzing the errors and will make changes, he said.

Hopefully others will also learn from those mistakes and the first cases of Ebola contagion in the country, and its first death, will also be its last, Berdan wrote.

White House eyes Dallas

At the White House late Saturday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pursued the same goal, together with a roster of top security and health leaders — including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, national security adviser Susan Rice and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thomas Frieden.

They zeroed in on Dallas and the process of tracing anyone who may have come into contact with any of the infected people, a White House statement said.

And after Duncan’s misdiagnosis, the administration said it intends to “ensure that Dallas has all of the appropriate and necessary resources to diagnose any additional cases safely and effectively.”

Employee travel scares

The cruise ship incident and a second travel scare came about in a bureaucratic loophole.

In an abundance of caution to avoid any possible spread of the Ebola virus, about 50 people associated with Texas Health Presbyterian have signed a document legally restricting where they can go until they are cleared of Ebola.

But before the voluntary travel ban existed, the lab supervisor and a nurse, who later came down with Ebola, went on trips and triggered hefty responses.

The cruise ship carrying the lab supervisor headed to the Central American country of Belize.

She had had no direct contact with Duncan but may have handled one of his lab specimens. A doctor on board the ship observed her to make sure she was symptom-free as the incubation period within which the disease would manifest itself approached its end.

She appeared to be home free.

But in an abundance of caution, the State Department planned to fly the lab supervisor back to the United States from Belize City’s airport. Then the country’s government declined to let her onto land and, in the same week, imposed strict travel bans on anyone who has had contact with Ebola-affected areas.

Chopper fetches blood samples

The ship hauled the lab worker back toward Texas and on Saturday, a day before its set arrival time, the U.S. Coast Guard sent down a chopper to collect blood samples for lab testing. It lowered a hoist basket to pick them up.

“The samples, which are in a container, so the USCG members are not exposed, were taken by Carnival’s onboard doctor,” said Petty Officer Andy Kendrick, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman.

The other travel scare was set off by one of the nurses who contracted Ebola after treating Duncan. Before her illness was apparent, Amber Vinson took a Frontier Airlines flight to Cleveland, then a flight back to Dallas.

After her contagion became known, the air carrier reached out to some 800 passengers, advising them to contact the CDC.

Frontier Airlines also took the plane out of service temporarily.

In Ohio, 29 people who came into contact with Vinson between October 10 and 13 are being monitored. The nurse has been transferred to Emory University Hospital’s isolation unit in Atlanta for treatment.

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Sunday that he didn’t know much about Vinson’s condition, but he said Nina Pham, the other Dallas nurse who contracted the illness, was in fair condition and doing “fine.”

Also, as questions persist regarding the matter of Ebola in domestic animals, Dallas Animal Services announced that Pham’s dog, Bentley, will transition to a special kennel for waste monitoring and testing. The dog is being monitored 21 days, as humans are.

Tears shed for Duncan

On Saturday, loved ones honored Duncan’s memory in North Carolina, where his mother lives.

In a memorial service at Rowan International Church in Salisbury, his nephew Josephus Weeks and others eulogized Duncan as a kind, compassionate man.

Weeks said he wished Duncan would be remembered for his acts of kindness “as opposed to the person who brought this disease to America, because he didn’t know he was sick.”

Duncan’s willingness to help others may have led to his death at age 42.

Former neighbors in Monrovia, Liberia, have said he may have contracted Ebola while rushing to the aid of a woman who collapsed under duress from the disease. She was pregnant, and Duncan did not know she was sick, they said.

There is good news

There are hopeful signs that some of the Ebola contagion scare in the United States could be winding down. Of the four patients currently being treated, at least two appear to be making a recovery.

And the monitoring of 48 people who came into contact with Duncan should draw to a close soon.

Duncan was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian on September 28, when he went there the second time. That was the last day the monitored people could have had contact with him.

The maximum incubation period for Ebola is 21 days. That period runs out on Monday.

Contrast that with West Africa, where the disease continues to spread exponentially, as the international response remains anemic.

With predictions that Ebola could infect an additional 5,000 to 10,000 people there per week by December, and given the mobility of world travel, the whirlwind of angst surrounding Duncan’s case might not be the last.

TM & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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14 comments

  • michele

    Republican austerity freaks gutted finding. I feel the pain. Republican austerity freaks shut the government down. I fee the pain. Republican austerity freaks deny the poor extended medicaid. I feel the pain.

    • Philip Chin

      MICHELE:
      GOP CUT FUNDING? HOW ABOUT CUT FLIGHTS FROM AFRICA?
      If the government were to increase funding, would America fly in more Ebola patients?

      PROPOSAL:
      (TRAVELING INTO AFRICA)
      Why not allow aid workers to go to Africa as needed and also record who goes?

      (TRAVELING OUT OF AFRICA)
      YET, those traveling out of Africa must be checked and also quarantined somewhere safe on a ship for X number of days BEFORE entering any other country or allowed to go into the public. Plus traveling out of Africa they must state who, where, friends met, etc…a detailed background check…this can be done while they are quarantined. Then after they arrive, they must again be checked.

      Ever heard of Ellis Island? The place where immigrants to America had to stay and were quarantined before entering the mainland.

      • Philip Yenovkian

        Anyone can easily see it is Obama who shifted funding away from the CDC and into social welfare. What funds the CDC did have were used for social engineering and stupid things like 1/4 million dollars to make a website for Michelle Obama’s garden. The CDC had spent ZERO dollars working on a ebola vaccine. They cannot produce any evidence that any ebola related programs were cut because they didn’t have any ebola related programs. Most people would assume this to be their primary mission but in fact Obama changed all of this.

    • Bruce Wayne

      Ok Michele, But I doubt you have donated even 1 dollar of your own money to anyone who is needy. Why don’t you liberals use your own money instead of everyone elses

  • Bruce Wayne

    The Ebola better wind down in the U.S. because any deaths will be the responsibility of mr Obama as he has refused the majority wishes to block the borders………..The Ebola in the U.S. should be renamed Obma’s Ebola since we would not have had any cases if he had blocked passage into our land….He is a lawless president and should be arrested….But much worse will happen as soon as people begin to die of Ebola in the U.S.

    Lawsuits will be very expensive and directly to Obama’s account

  • Bruce Wayne

    The evidence shows that only early detection can stop ebola from killing someone and the chances of finding everyone early is nil..And further to the point, if more people keep crossing our border, ISIS is sure to send the disease walking right across our border with Mexico and it will likeley affect Kids somewhere…Again, Do to Obama’s refusal to secure our borders….

    He is deliberately suiciding our people

  • Jim Starowicz

    **Pentagon announces Ebola rapid-response team for U.S. cases of virus**
    Leadership!!!!! Not FOX speak Conservative Fear!!!!!!!!

    From them that Totally Hate Government, but want in and don’t take away what it gives for their pennies, they bring on: “Ebola panic spreading much faster than disease in U.S.”

    In this country we should change the name to ‘foxbola’, deaths and maimings especially children by guns “hey that’s our rights”, or ‘conbola’, conservative easy to be grifted folks, or now them that attacked any idea of and now quickly attack as wrong for the ‘czarbola’, hate the thought or mention of but loves when their own do the ole IOKIYAR. Take a note from your last ‘dear leader’ of, wrap oneself in 4mil plastic sheathing and seal with ducktape!!

    As Tina Dupuy Says:
    “So far every case of Ebola in this Country got it by helping people. So relax republicans, you’re in the clear.”

    USN All Shore GMG3 ’67-’71 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71 – Independent **

  • Bruce Wayne

    Obama calls our being worried about our families: Histeria….is he hearless????

    Yes, and he hates AMericans. He chooses to risk our lives just like in fast N furious, and with all of his underhanded Islamic support……I bet he is behind ISIS! and there are many, many who agree with me on that!

    • Philip Yenovkian

      I’ve noticed many new articles pushing Obama’s open borders policy. This is one of the few that allow comments. It’s like Obama knows he is trouble, and he is. Guess the new guy Klain is already spinning this story. To hide his incompetency, Obama calls Americans’ concern fear or panic. In fact he is a lousy president, unable to generate any confidence in his decisions. Unable to convince anyone why a travel ban isn’t needed in the face of a disease so deadly that it has crippled governments in three countries. Unable to explain the lies and constant buffoonery from his administration. We will not solve this problem under his leadership. We will have to solve it despite him.