The State Department announced today that a healthcare worker who might have handled an Ebola specimen at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where Liberian citizen Thomas Eric Duncan died from virus last week, is currently on a 3,690-passenger Carnival cruise in the Caribbean.
According to the State Dept. release by spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the unidentified hospital employee "did not have direct contact" with Duncan "but may have had contact with clinical specimens collected from him." The health care worker and another person traveling with them have been isolated in their cabin; the ship doctor has deemed them in good health.
"The individual was out of the country before being notified of the C.D.C.'s updated requirements for active monitoring," Psaki's statement said. "At the time the hospital employee left the country, C.D.C. was requiring only self-monitoring."
USA Today reports that the ship sailed out of Galveston and was headed toward the Caribbean and on track to visit Belize Thursday. The State Dept. has said that Belize has "decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through."
The fallout from health officials' inability to contain the virus' spread—two nurses who helped treat Duncan have since tested positive for Ebola and a swath of others are being monitored for symptoms—has prompted President Obama to consider appointing an "Ebola czar" to head up the United States' response.
"It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person, not because they haven't been doing an outstanding job, really working hard on this issue, but they are also responsible for a whole bunch of other stuff," Obama told reporters in Dallas Thursday.
Three schools in Texas and two in Ohio are closed today for cleaning after learning that either students or employees were on the same plane or aircraft as Amber Vinson, the second nurse to test positive for Ebola after treating Duncan.
[Image via AP]