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Federal health officials will begin tracking passengers who were on the plane Ebola-infected nurse Amber Vinson took from Dallas to Ohio on Oct. 10 — a date when she supposedly did not have symptoms and was not contagious. "We can't rule out that she might have had the start of her illness on Friday," Dr. Chris Braden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a Thursday afternoon briefing, citing new information developed by investigators tracing all of Vinson's contacts. "This new information is saying we need to go back now to the flight she took on Friday the 10th and include them in our investigation of contacts."
The date that an Ebola patient starts showing symptoms is crucial because it is thought they can't spread the disease before then. In Vinson's case, creating a timeline is complicated because she did not have the classic symptoms of the virus — headache, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, and a spiking fever — even when she was diagnosed upon her return to Dallas. "If she had some comments that she was feeling funny, does that count [as a symptom]?" Braden asked.
Health officials were already contacting all the passengers on the Oct. 13 Frontier Airlines flight that Vinson took to get back to Texas after her weekend visit to her hometown — because she reported a low-grade 99.5 fever to the CDC before she boarded. Based on the new information, which they did not detail because of patient privacy concerns, they decided to extend that to the Oct. 10 flight, too.
A group of Ohio nurses who were on that first flight have already been placed on paid leave, although health officials say there is little to no risk that they were exposed to Ebola and they are showing no symptoms.