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U.S. Has First Case of Ebola Virus
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed, through laboratory tests, the first case of Ebola virus to be diagnosed in the U.S. in a man who had traveled to Dallas, Texas, from Liberia.
The patient did not have symptoms when leaving West Africa, but developed symptoms approximately 4 days after arriving in the U.S. on September 20.
The man fell ill on September 24 and sought medical care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas on September 26. After developing symptoms consistent with Ebola, he was admitted to the hospital on September 28.
Based on the man’s travel history and symptoms, the CDC recommended testing for Ebola. The medical facility isolated the patient and sent specimens for testing at the CDC and at a Texas lab participating in the CDC’s Laboratory Response Network. The CDC and the Texas Health Department reported the laboratory test results to the medical center to inform the patient. A CDC team is being dispatched to Dallas to assist with the investigation.
“Ebola can be scary. But there’s all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “The United States has a strong health care 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.”
Frieden said a handful of people, mostly family members, may have been exposed to the patient after he fell ill and that health authorities were tracking down anyone who might have had contact with the man. The emergency responders who transported the man to the hospital have been quarantined, according to a statement from Dallas city officials.
The ill man did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa, and 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 the CDC, the U.S. public health and medical systems have had prior experience with sporadic cases of diseases such as Ebola. In the past decade, the U.S. had five imported cases of viral hemorrhagic fever diseases similar to Ebola (one Marburg and four Lassa). None resulted in disease transmission in the U.S.
The data health officials have seen in the past few decades since Ebola was discovered indicate that the disease is not spread through casual contact or through the air. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person or through exposure to objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated. The illness has an average 8- to 10-day incubation period, although this period can range from 2 to 21 days; the CDC recommends monitoring exposed people for symptoms for a full 21 days. People are not contagious after exposure unless they develop symptoms.
In Africa, the current outbreak has killed about 50% of its victims. In past outbreaks, fatality rates have been as high as 90%.