The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a patient who has Ebola virus disease is being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas. This is the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.
The unidentified patient left Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 19 and arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 20. Around Sept. 24, according to the CDC, the patient began to develop symptoms. The patient was admitted to the hospital Sept. 28. Based on the patients travel history and symptoms, the CDC recommended testing for Ebola. The medical facility isolated the patient and sent specimens for testing at a Texas lab participating in the CDCs Laboratory Response Network. Lab results were confirmed as positive Tuesday afternoon.
The individual was in Texas to visit family in the U.S., according to CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, who spoke during a CDC media advisory Tuesday. Frieden outlined the next important steps the hospital, the CDC and other agencies will be taking, which include caring for the patient and minimizing the chances that anyone else contracts the disease by identifying individuals who came in contact with the patient. Anyone discovered to be at risk will be monitored for 21 days to see if they develop symptoms. We know that there are several family members, a few community members that may have been exposed, and we are working to identify others, Frieden said.
Health officials are closely monitoring a possible second Ebola patient who had close contact with the first patient, according to a USA Today report. Let me be real frank to the Dallas County residents: The fact that we have one confirmed case, there may be another case that is a close associate with this particular patient, Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said according to the report. So this is real. There should be a concern, but its contained to the specific family members and close friends at this moment.
Three Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedics and several ED staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital are off work and under observation after making contact with the patient being treated for Ebola, according to media reports.
During the Tuesday media advisory, Frieden stressed that Ebola is not spread via casual contact or through the air, but through direct contact with bodily fluids. People are not contagious after exposure unless they develop symptoms. The illness has an average 8-10 day incubation period.
Frieden said he had no doubt that we will control this importation so that it does not spread in the U.S. According to Frieden, it does not appear the individual was a healthcare worker involved in the response to Ebola in Monrovia. Since the patient did not become symptomatic until four days after arriving in Texas, we do not believe anyone on the flight is at risk, Frieden said.
The CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring, as Ebola is contagious only if the person is experiencing active symptoms, according to a news release.
During the media advisory, Edward Goodman, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, said the hospital had a plan in place for such an event. We were well-prepared to deal with this crisis, he said.
CDC and public health officials in Texas are taking precautions to identify people who have had close personal contact with the patient, and healthcare professionals have been reminded to use meticulous infection control at all times.
Ebola can be scary, Frieden said in a news release. But theres all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading. The United States has a strong healthcare system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities. While it is not impossible that there could be additional cases associated with this patient in the coming weeks, I have no doubt that we will contain this.
Although the CDC said the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is very low, the agency is working with other U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization and domestic and international partners and has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate technical assistance and control activities, according to the release. CDC has deployed teams of public health experts to West Africa and will continue to send experts to the affected countries.
As of Monday, there had been 6,574 reported cases of the Ebola and 3,091 deaths, with the largest amount of deaths (1,830) occurring in Liberia.
Anyone concerned about possible exposure may call 800-CDC-INFO for information.