First Ebola Patient Tests Positive in the U.S.

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Sept. 30, 2014 — A patient at a Dallas hospital has the Ebola virus, CDC officials said Tuesday.

The man had recently arrived in the U.S. from Liberia and was isolated at Texas Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 28 because of suspicious symptoms and his recent travel history.

The CDC has deployed a team of disease detectives to Dallas to begin tracking down all contacts the patient had before he arrived at the hospital.

According to Tom Frieden, MD, director of the CDC, the team will focus most closely on the 4 days between the time the man began showing symptoms on Sept. 24 and when he was placed in isolation at the hospital.

“We’re stopping this in its tracks,” Frieden said.

Frieden said the man, who is now critically ill, had flown to the U.S. on Sept. 19  and arrived the following day. He was staying with family members who live in the Dallas area when he began to feel unwell.

He went to the hospital for help on Sept. 26 but was sent home, officials said. He returned 2 days later and was placed in isolation.

Officials would not reveal the airline or flight. They said he was checked for a fever in Liberia before he boarded the plane and was cleared to fly.

Frieden stressed that fellow passengers on the flight were not considered to be at risk since the man had not yet developed symptoms when he boarded the plane.

“Ebola doesn’t spread from someone who doesn’t have fever and other symptoms. It’s only someone who’s sick with Ebola who can spread the disease,” Frieden said.

When asked to describe how many people the man might have come into contact with while he was infectious, Frieden said, “I think ‘handful’ is the right characterization. We know that there are several family members. There may have been one or two or three other community members. And we’re there to do additional investigations to identify any other possibilities.”

There are no other suspected cases in Texas, said David Lakey, MD, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

While the development was worrisome, experts said it was not surprising.

“This was not unexpected,” said William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville. “There’s a lot of travel between West Africa and the United States, and we all anticipated that sooner or later there would be a traveler exposed.”

Indeed, Edward Goodman, MD, epidemiologist at Texas Presbyterian, said that the hospital had held training for its staff just a week ago to prepare for possible Ebola cases.

“We were well prepared to deal with this crisis,” he said.

Frieden stressed that while Ebola is a scary disease, and it’s possible that someone who had contact with the man before he was admitted to the hospital could fall ill, he does not expect the case will spark an outbreak.

“I have no doubt that we will control this importation or this case of Ebola so that it doesn’t spread widely in this country,” Frieden said. 

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