The family of Amber Vinson, the second nurse to contract Ebola in the United States, denied that she had acted irresponsibly while traveling to Dallas before her diagnosis with the disease on Wednesday.
“We are troubled by some of the negative public comments and media coverage that mischaracterize Amber and her actions,” Vinson’s family said in a statement Sunday. “To be clear, in no way was Amber careless prior to or after her exposure to Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan. She has not and would not knowingly expose herself or anyone else.”
The family provided new details about Vinson’s interactions with federal and Dallas County health officials in the days before her Ebola diagnosis. The Dallas County Health Department contacted Vinson after the first nurse to contract the disease, Nina Pham, was diagnosed on October 12. Vinson then asked if she could arrange to fly back to Dallas that day “as a precaution,” the family said. ”Amber was particularly concerned considering that Ms. Phan, being a capable nurse who followed the same Dallas county mandates, had become infected.”
County health officials dissuaded her from doing so, however. “Officials assured Amber that her concerns were unfounded because her temperatures were within the appropriate measures and asymptomatic in all other areas,” the family said, adding that officials told her to continue self-monitoring.
When Vinson was at the Cleveland airport on Monday for her flight, she reported her temperature three times to the Dallas County Health Department, but she was cleared to fly every time. Vinson also worked through the Texas Presbyterian Hospital staff to contact the CDC, which also cleared her for travel.
“Suggestions that she ignored any of the physician and government-provided protocols recommended to her are patently untrue and hurtful,” the family said.
Vinson’s family has also hired a lawyer, Washington, D.C.-based Billy Martin, though the family did not say whether it was facing or pursuing legal action. Martin is a well-known defense lawyer whose previous clients include NFL player Michael Vick when he faced dog-fighting charges, former Sen. Larry Craig when he was arrested for lewd contact in a men’s restroom, and Monica Lewinsky’s mother.