(Bloomberg) — Start packing for New York, the “go” team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was told. A doctor there was back from a West African hot zone with Ebola-like symptoms, and was in a city hospital.
The disease experts traveling tonight are Pierre Rollin, who the CDC calls the world’s top expert on viral hemorrhagic fevers, Rima Khabbaz, the team’s leader, who led the agency’s Washington field response during the 2001 anthrax attacks, and David Daigle, a communications officer.
The “go” squad is a new tactic by the agency to keep Ebola cases contained and avoid the sorts of mishaps that happened in Dallas, where two nurses caring for the first U.S.- diagnosed Ebola patient became infected with the deadly virus.
While the New York patient hasn’t been confirmed as a positive case, speed is essential to quickly identify his web of potential contacts and to make sure health-care workers don’t put themselves in danger.
“For any hospital, anywhere in the country that has a confirmed case of Ebola, we will put a team on the ground within hours, with some of the world’s leading experts in how to take care of and protect health care workers from Ebola,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a media call this month.
Health workers in Dallas were unprepared and under-equipped when the Ebola patient there, Thomas Eric Duncan, arrived from Liberia, said National Nurses United, a union that represents 185,000 U.S. nurses. While Duncan was admitted on Sept. 28 with suspected Ebola, it wasn’t until about midnight on Oct. 1 that a CDC team of contact tracers and epidemiologists arrived to help.
Daigle was on the Dallas team, and described the group heading to New York. For the Dallas case, the CDC sent him to the airport even before booking a flight.
“At the time, I was saying, ‘Who’s the team leader? Who’s on the team?’ and they said, ‘We’re calling people now, just go!’” Daigle recounted in an interview last week.
Rollin has led investigations in remote villages of Asia, Africa, South American and the Caribbean in addition to helping author about 450 publications, according to the CDC. His first field experience withEbola was in 1995 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he helped clean the infectious disease ward and remove dead bodies. He also helped train local physicians and nurses, the CDC said.