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Airlines Drop Ebola Zone Flights; New Ebola Case Diagnosed in Dallas; Ebola Fears Spread Throughout U.S.

Aired October 25, 2013 - 10:30   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, Richard, why not just stop flights from Liberia, from Guinea, from Sierra Leone? I know people say well, look, that will affect aid workers but, I mean, couldn't aid workers take charter flights?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: And that's what we're heading towards. That's exactly what we're heading towards. There are virtually no direct flights to Europe and certainly to the United States from those parts of the world. The European Union, the U.K. and other countries, the U.S., have pretty much last week at the United Nations and at the IMF they've undertaken the jobs of getting medical workers in and med-evacking them out.

The Brussels flight to Brussels -- Brussels Air Flight to Brussels is not a satisfactory solution. So, Anderson, the answer, according to the officials, is isolate Ebola, don't isolate the countries. But the reality is fear is now so strong that it's going to be left to militaries and professional aid organizations to get people in and out.

COOPER: All right, Richard Quest, I appreciate it. Thanks very much. Richard, again, we'll check in with Richard throughout the day.

Still to come there's been a lot of heat on Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and likely a lot more to come today. A national nurses group, claiming as we saw throughout, the proper procedures were not in place to take care of Ebola patients. We'll talk to the head of the American Nurses Association next.


COOPER: Well, good morning to you. I'm Anderson Cooper live in Dallas. Thanks very much for joining us in this hour on CNN.

We are following breaking news out of Dallas where a second health care worker has tested positive for Ebola. Authorities have not released the name of this new patient. We know that it's a woman and that she lived alone in this apartment. Both that unit and her car will be cleaned by a special crew today.

She helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first Ebola case diagnosed on U.S. soil. And we know she's among the 77 health care workers who are being monitored because of their potential exposure. This morning, Dallas officials say there is a very real possibility -- those are their words -- that more Ebola cases will surface. All this as new allegations surface about the Dallas hospital.

National Nurses United, a union group, says it spoke with a number of nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who allege proper protocols were not in place. Among the allegations -- and they are shocking -- claims that Duncan was not immediately put in isolation when he was admitted but instead left for several hours around other patients. They also claim that protective gear left the nurses' necks exposed. The response from superiors was to use medical tape -- that's what the nurses allegedly were told.

They claim there was no one around to pick up hazardous waste. As a result piles of contaminated waste grew. It's unclear how many nurses the union actually spoke with.

Joining us now by phone is Marla Weston, she's the CEO of the American Nurses Association, which is not the group that making the claims but represents nurses around the country. First of all what do you make of these accusations?

MARLA WESTON, CEO, AMERICAN NURSES ASSOCIATION (via telephone): Well, Anderson, it's a little hard to know exactly what has gone on. We don't know which nurses, how many nurses, or even if this information is accurate, unfortunately. One of the things the American Nurses Association asked both the hospital and the CDC yesterday is to be open and transparent about exactly what went on in the care of Thomas Duncan for the purpose of really understanding why one and now two health care workers have gotten Ebola. Not only so that the health care workers who are now taking care of them can be protected but if an Ebola patient does show up anywhere in the United States, every nurse, every health care worker, knows exactly how to take care of them.

COOPER: Right. And this isn't about criticizing this hospital for the sake of criticizing them. This is about getting transparency in order to help other hospitals who may have to deal with this or some other kind of infection. Do you believe so far this hospital's been transparent? Because they haven't really been transparent certainly with reporters -- you know, the statement they just put out in response to what Nurses United were saying is frankly a non-statement.

They're saying there's a 24-hour hotline nurses could call anonymously. They're also saying they have annual training. Annual training does not affect what's happening right now and the statement didn't respond at all to any of the very specific allegations that were being made allegedly by some of these nurses. Do you believe this hospital has been transparent?

WESTON: I'm not sure, Anderson, to be honest. What I do know about this hospital is that it is a very high-quality hospital. It has been recognized for excellence in nursing care. And we do know that nurses are the front line of a health care system. They do get annual training on infection control procedures. Every nurse in this country is really an expert at what we call universal precautions. But this is a very unique situation and certainly when an Ebola patient shows up people have a very specific protocol that they need to follow and at that moment, at that time really need to understand exactly what that protocol is and follow it rigorously in each and every interaction with the patient.

So, you know --


COOPER: Have you ever heard of a protocol which tells nurses --

WESTON: -- two health care workers have contracted Ebola, you know, it says we need to understand what's happening. As you described, for the purpose of everybody being able to deliver better care.

COOPER: But you don't know whether this hospital has been transparent. I'm asking for your opinion as somebody who represents nurses. Do you believe this hospital has been transparent?

WESTON: Well, I believe that there is information that we don't yet have. And so, you know, as you describe, I think this answer from the hospital doesn't really answer the questions or the allegations that are being made. So what I want to know is what is the exactly the right protocol and how do we make sure that every single nurse knows exactly right protocol. And that's what we need both from the hospital and from the CDC. One of the things we're actually in the process of doing is looking for that best scientific evidence because we're worried we're not getting it.

COOPER: Right. And the fact that we're at this stage of the outbreak and we're still talking about what is the proper protocol and that it's not clear, that's a problem.

Marla Weston, I appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much for speaking with us.

Still to come, we're going to be focusing a lot on these protocols throughout the day and trying to figure out exactly what went on inside this hospital as officials ramp up efforts to fight Ebola, fears as hoaxes heighten tensions and spark criminal probes. Could charges be filed? They certainly should be if someone is making hoaxes about this. We'll talk about that ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back.

The breaking news obviously here now, a second health care worker has come down with Ebola. As many -- we learned yesterday as many as 76 people inside this hospital are now needing to be monitored who may have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan and officials here in Dallas saying it's very possible there could be more health care workers who test positive. It's an alarming situation to say the least. There are growing fears surrounding the virus and those fears are leading to some headline grabbing, some pretty tense moments around the country. CNN's Kyung Lah has more on that.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A scene out of a disaster movie. First responders in hazmat gear board an Emirates flight in Dubai and checked five passengers with flu-like symptoms. None met the criteria for Ebola or had visited Africa. At LAX 40 firefighters respond to a passenger with flu-like symptoms but that's where the scare ends.

CAPT. JAIME MOORE, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPARTMENT: It has turned out that there was some miscommunication that this patient had been to the continent of Africa but not near West Africa. As a matter of fact, it was South Africa.

LAH: The next day in Los Angeles, a hoaxer wearing a mask exits a city bus saying "Don't mess with me, I have Ebola." the bus driver is rushed to the hospital as police begin a manhunt.

PAUL GONZALEZ, METRO SPOKESMAN: Someone who does a thing like this is trying to cause fear in a population.

LAH: Ebola has not -- repeat, not spread through the U.S. but fear certainly has.

In Nashville, Tennessee a sick passenger was taken off a plane that originated in Dallas. The patient had no contact with anyone with Ebola or traveled to Africa. In Richmond, Virginia a patient with a low-grade fever who had traveled to Africa is isolated even though the clinic says they don't believe it's Ebola. In Jacksonville, Florida a patient with flu-like symptoms but no fever checked himself into an emergency room. Why did he fear he had Ebola? He had casual contact with a West African traveler.

The CDC says it's been getting 800 calls and e-mails daily about Ebola. Each scare stretches first responders and can cost taxpayers thousands of dollars and flu season has barely begun.

This may all seem ridiculous, says risk communication expert Peter Sandman but it should also seem familiar. Remember anthrax?

PETER SANDMAN, RISK COMMUNICATION EXPERT: For a little while, people were freaking out about white powder. And that was costly. People don't freak out about white powder anymore. They're used to that risk and they take it in stride. People will take this one in stride, too, but it takes a while. It takes longer if you tell them they're panicking.

LAH: What makes this societal learning curve worse says Sandman is early on the CDC chief insisted everything was under control, then the nurse in Dallas contracted the disease.

SANDMAN: What he didn't say is "It's going to be harder than people imagine. It's going to be harder than we imagined." so now, yes, now people are angry at the CDC and that anger is sort of morphing into fear. LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes who joins us now. Tom is in L.A.

A criminal probe now under way after this bus passenger claims he had Ebola. A transit official said this was likely a hoax, they aren't taking chances. How would this kind of investigation even proceed?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Anderson, I mean the type of violation here at the minimum is disorderly conduct and at the most it can be worse but, you know, this could be the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater. You can start a panic. You can start in this case the bus driver taken the hospital. The bus has been obviously quarantined itself.

So you could have this be kind of an act of everything from disorderly conduct to domestic terrorism depending on the intent of the idiot that shouts out something like that.

COOPER: I mean you use the word terrorism. I know an official in L.A. also said that someone who does this to spark fear is a terrorist. There's no way these would actually be adjudicated that way. They wouldn't be pursued on terrorism charges, would they?

FUENTES: Probably not unless it's a clear intent that that's why they do it. And I should add with regard to terrorism that in the past we have not had terrorist groups actually get real serious about using biological agents because they feared that they couldn't control it and couldn't properly disseminate it, even in the anthrax case. So in that sense it's probably not going to become a tool of terrorism but the idea that massive fear always is a tool of terrorism and it's the manner in which you can cause people to be afraid. So somebody can shout fire in a crowded theater but if they start coughing and hacking and yelling that they have Ebola in a crowded theater, would you quarantine, you know, several hundred people at that point? What would happen? So these are things that as people do these kinds of stupid things, we may have to deal with it.

COOPER: A Philadelphia man was escorted from a plane after telling passengers that he had Ebola. I mean it's kind of akin to someone joking about having a bomb as they go through TSA.

FUENTES: Well, it is in a sense, but you can see the bomb and they bring the dogs on and they examine and it may delay that plane for a couple of hours during the investigation while they look for a bomb that isn't there. But in this case, you're talking about a virus that's not visible with the naked eye so if somebody says something like that, now you're kind of disproving that they have Ebola or that they're contagious or that the virus is present and that's a much more difficult task than looking for a bomb.

COOPER: Tom Fuentes -- Tom, I appreciate you being on. Thanks very much. Still to come in this hour, Nina Pham is definitely not without her

supporters. I talked with one of Nina Pham's best friends about her life, her dreams of becoming a nurse. That's all next.


COOPER: Two patients with Ebola now being treated here at the hospital in Dallas. One of the friends of Nina Pham, the first nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian who contracted Ebola is speaking out. I caught up with Sarah Strittmatter last night on "AC 360". They've been close since the third grade. We talked about how Nina touched her life and her dreams of becoming a nurse.


COOPER: What is Nina like?

SARAH STRITTMATTER, FRIEND OF NINA PHAM: Nina is an absolutely incredible young woman. She is a woman of great heart and incredible spirit.

COOPER: It's so cool that you've been friends since third grade. There's not many people one remains friends with that long.

STRITTMATTER: We've been very close. She's kind of that person that you're always striving to be. She's that person that's got the infectious laugh. In eighth grade --

COOPER: I'm partial to anyone with a strange laugh.

STRITTMATTER: Oh she's got a wonderful laugh -- wonderful laugh. She laughs even when your jokes aren't funny.

COOPER: Is that right. I hear you said that she'll laugh just because you think the joke is funny and she sort of wants to make you feel good.


COOPER: You also said she's not very good at being mean to people.

STRITTMATTER: She's terrible. She's also terrible being sarcastic -- sorry, Nina. She's an incredibly kind and selfless person.

COOPER: Did she always want to be a nurse? I understand during career day when you were in high school she was a nurse.

STRITTMATTER: Well, she had some first and second grade dreams of being a fashion designer I think, but when we came down to it in the fourth grade and we had to pick careers, she came as a nurse.

COOPER: Fourth grade?

STRITTMATTER: Fourth grade. We met in third grade and that was in fourth grade we had career day.

COOPER: So for that long.


COOPER: So it didn't surprise you that she actually did become a nurse.

STRITTMATTER: She's a people person.

COOPER: You're also very close to her family.


COOPER: They've helped you in tough times as well.

STRITTMATTER: Absolutely -- any time that my family has struggled with a death in the family or any tough times. One time we came out on the porch and there was an entire ham on our porch. But they're always talking to us and making sure that we're doing ok and there to support us.

COOPER: There's been a lot of reports about her dog and how important her dog is to her and the reason -- one of the reasons we've been reporting on it is because you don't want people who might be infected with Ebola feeling that their dogs are going to be killed if they come forward. So her dog is being taken care of. But you kind of know the history the dog.

STRITTMATTER: A little bit. And I hope I do him justice. His name is Bentley. She calls him Bentley-Boo. He's adorable and --

COOPER: He's a rescue dog.

STRITTMATTER: He is a rescue dog. So Nina her entire life had been looking forward to moving out just so she could kind of have her own dog and Bentley was that dog. And Bentley was part of a litter of dogs -- a pack of dogs that was rescued from a puppy mill and there were a lot of puppies and to save them from euthanasia, Nina said "Sign me up. I want one of those dogs."

COOPER: So the dog is important to her no doubt.

STRITTMATTER: Extremely important to her.

COOPER: Obviously -- I talked to the mayor of Dallas who was saying that the family is obviously -- for them this is a private matter but they also are aware that there's a lot of interest in this and obviously a lot of tension. Is there anything else you want people to know about your friend?

STRITTMATTER: I want them to know that she is that best friend that you have, your whole life you're trying to live up to be like her, to be that caring and loving and selfless and there for you. She's that person. She's not just another news story. She's somebody's best friend.

COOPER: Your best friend. STRITTMATTER: My best friend.

COOPER: And I remember -- I heard you saying also this she's very meticulous and has always been.

STRITTMATTER: Yes. And in middle school we always needed things that were handwritten for the class on brochures, or anything that we were doing. It was always Nina that we went to, to do that. She's so organized.


COOPER: Strittmatter started a "go fund me" page to help out Pham and her family. All of Nina's belongings were destroyed in the decontamination process and the family is not working so they can be by her side. So far they've raised about $25,000. You can find a link to that site on the "AC 360" blog page at

Thanks very much for joining us on this hour. I'm Anderson Cooper. Don't forget to tune in tonight for "360". I'll be live here in Dallas bringing you all the latest.

"@THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA" starts after a quick break.