Nina Pham, the nurse who cared for the first Ebola patient in the U.S., has settled a lawsuit against Texas Health Resources, her hospital’s parent company.

Pham contracted the disease while she cared for Thomas Eric Duncan at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan had contracted Ebola in Liberia and subsequently perished to the disease. Pham and another nurse who cared for Duncan resulted infected. Reportedly, Pham was not correctly informed about treating a patient suspected of having Ebola. Pham has been labeled as one of the victims of poor hospital care for their workers.

Nurse who contracted ebola
Nina Pham and her dog. Image credit: Star-Telegram/Paul Moseley.

Caring for patients and not the practitioners

The lawsuit described how nurses could not decide what type of protective equipment to use, seeing that their supervisors were not able to provide any useful information other than what they found on Google.

The nurses had to create a containment room for holding the patient, while also having to dispose of hazardous material, failing to do so correctly because of their lack of training. According to the lawsuit, Texas Health Resources “failed to ensure that appropriate policies, procedures, and equipment were in place.”

Apparently, Pham became infected because she did not take off the protective clothes that she wore while treating Duncan. After Duncan’s passing, Pham was told that she was safe and did not have to worry about infection. The nurse then spent time with her family, without any clue of being infected. After a couple of days, she went to the hospital and was diagnosed with the disease. The hospital denied any claim of lack of training and lackluster preparation.

Nina Pham was then transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, where she achieved a full recovery. Her lawyers stressed that, even if she has been given the green light, she still fears for her health and bearing and infection without her knowledge.

Can a cured patient still have the virus?

Ebola can be spread through direct contact with infected blood, mucus, feces, urine, and saliva. Although there is no certainty that Ebola is spread by coughing or sneezing, any contact with bodily secretions can be considered infectious. The virus can live exposed on dry surfaces for many hours, going up to days if it’s found in body fluids in tissues, puddles, and so on.

The Ebola virus can linger in the body even after the disease has been cured. A study performed in Liberia determined that the virus can remain in bodily fluids for over a year, specifically in semen, breast milk, and ocular fluid. The CDC recommends that people that survived Ebola should abstain from having sex for at least a year since the subsequent period of passive infection has not been studied.

Currently, the CDC along with the World Health Organization is researching the ways the Ebola virus can survive in body fluids. One of the first trials analyzed the semen of 100 male Ebola survivors located in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Researchers determined that the virus could remain in semen for at least nine months, while previous studies had set the limit for just six months.

Source: NBC