WASHINGTON- A Texas health care worker has become the first person to contract Ebola on American soil, authorities confirmed Sunday, blaming a safety breach for the spread of the deadly disease.
The new Ebola patient, the second person infected outside Africa and the second diagnosed in the United States, had treated a man at a Dallas hospital who died of Ebola last week.
The infection deals a blow to global efforts to stem the epidemic, which has already claimed more than 4,000 lives, most of them in the hard-hit West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“This development is understandably disturbing news for the patient, the patient’s family and colleagues and the greater Dallas community,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
But the CDC insisted that any further spread into the community surrounding the hospital “can be prevented with proper public health measures.”
Earlier, the agency’s chief Thomas Frieden said it was clear that “at some point there was a breach in protocol and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”
The CDC has launched an investigation and is hunting for more medical care workers who may have been exposed to the dangerous virus.
US President Barack Obama said that federal authorities should take “immediate additional steps” to make sure hospitals were ready to follow protocols designed for Ebola patients.
National Nurses United, the largest US organization of nurses, is now demanding protective equipment, including hazmat suits, and special training on how to treat Ebola.
“The time to act is long overdue,” said executive director RoseAnn DeMoro.
Meanwhile in hardest-hit Liberia, health care workers plan to go on strike Monday to demand hazard pay for treating patients infected with the deadly disease.
In Liberia alone, 95 health care providers have died from the tropical fever, out of 201 infected, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).