As follow-up tests confirmed Sunday that a Texas nurse who cared for patient Thomas Eric Duncan has become the first known American to contract Ebola in the country, the largest union of registered nurses said there's a "huge vacuum in both credibility and implementation" in hospitals' preparedness to contain Ebola.
National Nurses United said that a survey conducted among 2,000 nurses at more than 750 facilities in 46 states and the District of Columbia shows that 85 percent of them had not been provided education by their hospitals about Ebola in a setting that would allow them to interact with or ask administrators questions, Dallas News reported.
"As has been shown in Dallas, they are not prepared," the Union's co-president Deborah Burger was quoted as saying in a press conference in Oakland, California, on Sunday. "There is a huge vacuum in both credibility and implementation."
In the survey, 76 percent said their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola.
The chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that a breach in infection control protocols was behind it, although the agency is yet to investigate.
Ebola – which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhea – spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva. Since it began in West Africa in March, it has taken more than 4,000 lives.
CDC chief Thomas Frieden said the Ebola virus was transmitted from Duncan to the nurse either because there was a breach of protocol at the hospital or an error was made by the nurse.
"At some point there was a breach in protocol," he claimed during a second news conference Sunday. "That breach in protocol resulted in this infection. This tells us there is a need to enhance training and to make sure protocols are followed."
The CDC announced Sunday afternoon that follow-up tests on the nurse's blood confirm that she has Ebola.
"We're still not clear on why our hospitals are dragging their feet," Burger added. "We think there may be a bit of denial involved in this."
"Nurses and other frontline hospital personnel must have the highest level of protective equipment, such as the Hazmat suits Emory University or the CDC themselves use while transporting patients and hands on training and drills for all RNs [registered nurses] and other hospital personnel, that includes the practice putting on and taking off the optimal equipment," RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, added in a statement Sunday.
President Obamas spoke with Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell on Sunday and directed that the CDC investigation "move as expeditiously as possible," according to a statement by the White House.
The additional officers CDC has dispatched to Dallas must work closely with state and local authorities as well as hospital staff to review infection control procedures and the use of personal protective equipment, Obama told Burwell.
Federal authorities must also take immediate additional steps to ensure hospitals and healthcare providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient, he added.
Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the United States, died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital last week. The Liberian national, who came to the U.S. to marry his fiancée weeks before he died, had not been given any experimental treatment – such as ZMapp or convalescent serum made from the blood of Ebola survivors.
While some accused Duncan of coming to the United States despite knowing that he had contracted the virus, the pastor of his American fiancée said Duncan was perhaps not aware of it.
"I think it's very important for us to remember that he was not able to tell us about that personally or publicly," Wilshire Baptist Church Senior Pastor George Mason, told The Christian Post earlier. "So any conclusions that we draw from that are really our own [and] not coming from him personally."