Ebola crisis: 'Clipboard man' seen without any protective gear standing with workers in full hazmat suits transporting patient

However, unidentified man was wearing sunglasses

Click to follow
The Independent US

Video footage of a plain-clothes man surrounded by people in full hazmat suits transporting the second US Ebola patient to Atlanta has been described as a potentially "serious breach of protocol" by an Ebola expert.

In the footage, aired lived by NBC 5, the unidentified man can be seen clutching a document as health workers wearing full protective gear take Ebola patient Amber Vinson from an ambulance towards a specially-equipped jet at Dallas' Love Field.

Viewers immediately took to Twitter to ask why the man appeared completely unprotected, with one quipping: “Apparently, there is someone immune to Ebola”.

In the video, all of the workers transporting Ms Vinson to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment are covered from head to toe, while two are wearing respirators.

But the man, who social media users have nicknamed ‘clipboard man’, is stood on the tarmac wearing just trousers, a shirt and shoes. He does not appear to be wearing gloves or any kind or protective clothing – although he is wearing sunglasses.

The man was seen following the stretcher carrying the patient with Ebola

The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has not yet officially commented on whether the man was breaking any protocols in Ebola cases.

Dr Peter Walsh, a lecturer in Primate Quantitative Ecology at the University of Cambridge, told The Independent  that just standing in the vicinity without wearing a protective suit is relatively low risk.

However, he said touching one of the men in the suits could mark a serious breach of guidelines.

He said: "Touching one of the suited people and, particularly, accepting an object carried by that person is a serious breach of protocol. Once the suits go on and they have contact with the patient, they and anything they touch should be disinfected."

After reaching the jet, the patient is lowered off the trolley and taken onto the plane by the health care workers. The man holding a clipboard remains there for the whole transfer without wearing any protective clothing.

At one point, he reaches towards the stretcher used to carry the patient just seconds after she has stepped off it and grabs what appears to be a container from a worker.

When Ms Vinson has been placed on the plane, a worker in a hazmat suit emerges and hands him an empty red bag, which he takes and holds open. The workers then appear to place blankets and other items in another red bag, before tying it shut.

A spokesperson for Phoenix Air, the airline flying Ms Vinson, told ABC News the man was their medical protocol supervisor and was giving verbal directions to staff who have limited vision and mobility in the suits.

The spokesperson said: "Our medical professionals in the biohazard suits have limited vision and mobility and it is the protocol supervisor’s job to watch each person carefully and give them verbal directions to insure no close contact protocols are violated.

"There is absolutely no problem with this and in fact insures an even higher level of safety for all involved."

clipboard_man1.jpgDerek Macallan, a professor of Infectious Disease and Medicine at St George’s, University of London, described the footage as "intriguing".

He said the video suggests workers were "double protecting" to ensure the infection source was contained by having both staff and the patient in protective gear in case a breach occurred.

"Since it didn't, I can't see a problem," he said.

"But with this double approach it must be really hard to keep consistency about where the clean/contaminated line is drawn. It looks as if a suited individual taps the guy in slacks on the shoulder.

"This he should not have done if he should have considered the outside of his suit 'dirty'. He clearly did not."

Ms Vinson, 29, had been treating Ebola victim Thomas Duncan at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital before flying to Ohio. She was the second person to contract the virus in Texas when preliminary tests came back positive for Ebola on Wednesday.

American Medical Response, the ambulance service that transported Ms Vinson, told NBC Dallas the man is not one of their employees. They said the man could be a member of the air crew flying Ms Vinson to Atlanta.