America’s top infectious disease expert on Sunday again acknowledged that the safety protocols used for the nation’s first Ebola patient were inadequate, and that the Obama administration overstated the country’s readiness for the deadly virus, amid concern that Americans have already lost faith in the government.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told “Fox News Sunday” that the adopted World Health Organization protocol for handling an Ebola patient was better suited for field work than confined hospital care.
As a result, two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas were infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who arrived from West Africa with the virus and later died.
“It was very clear … that is not the optimal way,” Fauci said.
Fauci said he wasn’t sure how nurse Nina Pham became infected, but it was “likely” because “she was not completely covered.”
As many as 4,500 people in West Africa so far this year have died from Ebola.
Fauci also tried to quell some of the fear and criticism over President Obama and other administration officials overstating U.S. readiness, including White House adviser Lisa Monaco suggesting every U.S. hospital is fully prepared to treat an Ebola patient.
“Nothing is risk free,” Fauci told Fox News. He said that what U.S. health officials need to do now is not talk about things in “absolutes.”
Fauci also announced revised guidance for health care workers treating Ebola patients, which will include using protective gear “with no skin showing,”
Fauci said those caring for an Ebola patient in Dallas were left vulnerable because some of their skin was exposed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on revisions to safety protocols.
Ebola’s incubation period is 21 days, and Fauci noted that mark was being reached Sunday for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital workers who first treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who later died of the disease.
“The ones now today that are going to be ‘off the hook’ are the ones that saw him initially in the emergency room,” Fauci said.
Duncan was seen at the hospital on Sept. 26 and sent home with antibiotics. He returned by ambulance on Sept. 28, was admitted and died of Ebola on Oct. 8.
Judge Clay Jenkins, the chief executive in Dallas County, said that the protective order that has kept Duncan’s family isolated expires Sunday at midnight.
“That’s going to be a good thing for those families. They’ve been through so much, and we’re very happy about that,” Jenkins said.
But, Jenkins continued, “At the same time, we’re extremely concerned about these health care workers and we continue to make contingency in the event that there are more cases.”
Rep. Tim Murphy, a psychologist and founding member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, said the hysteria about Ebola reaching the epidemic level in the U.S. that President Obama is trying to calm is the result of people wanting answers and getting wrong information, which is typical in such situations.
“So many of those assurances have been inaccurate,” the Pennsylvania lawmaker told Fox News. “What creates panic is when people are given information that is proven to be false.”
Murphy, as chairman of a House subcommittee on oversight and investigations, led a hearing last week on Ebola.
He supports a proposed travel ban on West African countries that the administration opposes, saying some of its arguments are “absurd.”
Murphy also said the so-called Ebola czar that the president appointed to oversee the federal response, Ron Klain, will not calm fears.
“The American people are looking for knowledge and expertise,” he told Fox News. “He has none in these fields.”
FoxNews.com / The Associated Press contributed to this report.