Medical officials in the United States announced on Tuesday the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa during the latest outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people this year.
The patient, who has not yet been identified, is being treated in Dallas, Texas.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the patient left Liberia in west Africa on 19 September, but did not develop symptoms until a few days after arriving in the US. He was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas on Sunday.
Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, said the patient was being treated in strict isolation, and that all measures would be taken to ensure that the disease would not spread in the US.
“I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country,” he told a news conference. The disease has spread rapidly in west Africa, killing more than 3,000 people since the outbreak began in March.
Frieden said the CDC believed it was the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa in the latest outbreak. “This is the first patient diagnosed outside of Africa to our knowledge with this particular strain of Ebola,” he said.
The patient’s gender was not confirmed, but officials repeatedly used the male personal pronoun at the CDC briefing. Few other details were released: the CDC would only confirm that the he was not involved in the public health response to the crisis in Liberia, and was visiting family in the US. His citizenship was not disclosed.
The White House said the president had been briefed. “The president and director Frieden discussed the stringent isolation protocols under which the patient is being treated as well as ongoing efforts to trace the patient’s contacts to mitigate the risk of additional cases,” a White House spokesman said.
The patient began developing symptoms, which can include high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, as well as internal and external bleeding, on 24 September. He sought treatment for the first time on 26 September but was not admitted to hospital until two days later.
Specimens from the patient arrived at the CDC in Atlanta on Tuesday, where tests determined he was suffering from Ebola. A state-operated laboratory in Texas also concluded that the specimens tested positive for Ebola. Frieden said testing for Ebola is “highly accurate”.
A spokeswoman for Dallas County health and human services department told the Guardian that it will be “conducting a public health follow-up” on the patient which will include investigating travel history and recent contacts.
Friedman said there was “zero risk” that the patient could have transmitted the disease on the flight from Liberia to the US, because he was not infectious at the time. Ebola can only be spread through direct contact through blood or bodily fluids, after the first appearance of symptoms.
Doctors were discussing with the patient’s family the possibility of treating the patient with experimental therapies, Frieden said. He acknowledged that other people who came into contact with the patient could develop the disease. “It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual … could develop Ebola in the coming weeks,” Frieden said.
Health officials in Texas attempted to reassure residents. Dr David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas department of state health services, told the CDC briefing: “We have no other suspected cases in the state of Texas at this time.”
Zachary S Thompson, the Dallas county director of health and human services, said: “Dallas County residents should be aware that the public health is our number one priority at Dallas Ccounty health and human services. Our staff will continue to work hard to protect the health and welfare of the citizens in Dallas County.”
The Texas patient is the fifth to receive treatment for Ebola in the US, and the sixth American to contract the disease: a civil servant with dual American-Liberian citizenship died in Monrovia in July. Aid workers Dr Kent Brantly of Texas and Nancy Writebol were the first Ebola patients to be treated in the US.
Brantly and Writebol were treated in a bio-containment unit at Emory University hospital in Atlanta. The recovered after receiving doses of an experimental drug which has since been depleted. Brantly recently testified before Congress, imploring the international community to step up its response to the outbreak.
Dr Rick Sacra, the third US aid worker to contract Ebola while working at a hospital in Monrovia, was released from Nebraska Medical Center last week. Sacra had gone back to Monrovia after fellow missionaries Brantly and Writebol were diagnosed. In Monrovia, Sacra treated obstetrics patients.
A fourth patient is being treated at Emory. The patient’s identity has not being disclosed for confidentiality reasons, but he is believed to be a World Health Organization doctor who was treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
First Ebola case diagnosed outside Africa being treated in US hospital – The Guardian