First Ebola Case Diagnosed in US

Megan Brooks

September 30, 2014

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed on American soil, in Dallas, Texas.

Several patients diagnosed with Ebola in West Africa have been treated in US hospitals.

In a brief statement issued Monday, officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas said they had admitted a patient into "strict isolation" to be evaluated for potential Ebola virus, based on the patient's symptoms and recent travel history.

At a press briefing Tuesday evening, the CDC said the patient developed symptoms several days after returning to Texas from West Africa, where Ebola has killed more than 3000 people to date. Tests for Ebola came back positive Tuesday afternoon.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, reported that the patient left Liberia September 19 on a commercial airplane and arrived in the US September 20. The patient had no symptoms when departing or entering the US, but began to develop symptoms around September 24. The patient sought care on September 26 and was admitted to the hospital on September 28. The patient was here to visit family that lives in the US. No other details were revealed.

It does not appear that the individual was involved in the response to Ebola, but the investigation is ongoing, Dr. Frieden said.

The patient "undoubtedly" had close contact with someone who had Ebola or died from it, Dr. Frieden said.

"A handful" of people may have been exposed, particularly family members," he added.

Dr. Frieden emphasized that Ebola does not spread by air and the patient did not get sick until days after the flight, so he is not concerned about people on the flight.

"It is certainly possible someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks," he said, but he has "no doubt that we will control this importation of Ebola so that it does not spread widely."

The CDC is following "core tried and true public health interventions" to stop Ebola in the US, Dr. Frieden said. The CDC has a team en route to Texas now.

Next Steps

The next steps, Dr. Frieden said, are 3-fold:

1:  Provide the patient the most effective care possible and as safely as possible

2:  Identify all people who might have had contact with the patient

3:  Once those contacts are identified, monitor them for 21 days after exposure. If they develop fever, isolate them and care for them as well as possible and minimize exposure to others.

"We are working through this situation," added David Lakey, MD, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Edward Goodman, MD, hospital epidemiologist, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, said the hospital has a "robust" infection control system. "We have had a plan in place for some time now for a patient who might present with Ebola. We are well prepared to deal with this crisis."

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