The Centers for Disease Control have confirmed a “critically ill” person in Dallas, Texas, has contracted the Ebola virus – and the individual had been in the country for eight days before being hospitalized.
Officials say the first case of Ebola in the United States, not brought for special treatment, has been identified and the patient is in “strict isolation” at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
Doctors refused to answer questions about whether the patient is a U.S. citizen, saying only that “he’s visiting family who live in this country.”
“We got the result back at 1:22 p.m. CT this afternoon that the patient has Ebola, and we want to emphasize at this point, we have no other information any other person is affected,” said Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey. “We are committed to make sure Texas is safe.”
On Sept. 20, the patient arrived in the U.S. on a flight from Liberia, officials with the CDC reported.
In a press conference Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said, “He began developing symptoms several days after arriving in the United States and was hospitalized. Today we determined the patient has Ebola.”
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are the focus of the unprecedented outbreak, which has already taken 2,800 lives and could kill as many as 1.4 million by the end of January, according to the CDC. WND has reported on the danger of spreading Ebola by international air travel, given that Ebola symptoms can take up to 21 days to manifest after a person has been infected.
The patient reportedly showed no symptoms while traveling, which, the CDC said, meant “zero risk” of infecting other passengers on the same flight. The government agency refused to say whether the individual flew on a commercial airplane or to identify the patient’s flight number. Physicians said only a “handful” of people in the U.S. had been in contact with the infected person prior to symptoms becoming evident.
“The next steps are threefold,” Frieden said. “First, the care for the patient must be provided at the highest level possible and as safely as possible to keep at an absolute minimum the possibility anybody else could become infected and to maximize the chances that the patient might recover. Second, we identify all people who may have had contact with the patient while he could have been infectious. …
“Once all the persons the patient contacted are identified, they are monitored for 21 days after exposure to see if they develop fever. If they develop fever, the same criteria are used to isolate them and make sure they are cared for as well as possible so they maximize their chances of recovery and to minimize or eliminate the chance that they might infect other people.”
Frieden said he has “no doubt” physicians and health officials “will control this case of Ebola so it does not spread widely in this country.”
“It is certainly possible that someone who has contact with this individual – a family member or other individual – could develop Ebola in the coming weeks,” he said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”
Frieden concluded, “Ultimately, we are all connected by the air we breathe,” raising concern Ebola could become an airborne virus.
“Ebola is not transmitted by air,” said Dr. Edward Goodman, hospital epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, noting that he wanted to immediately correct Dr. Frieden’s statement “that may have been misinterpreted.”
Goodman added, “We have had a plan in place for some time now in the event of a patient presenting us with possible Ebola. Ironically enough, in the week before this patient presented, we had a meeting of all the stakeholders that might be involved in the care of such a patient. Because of that, we were well prepared to deal with this patient and this crisis.”
The Ebola symptoms began to appear on Sept. 24. The patient sought medical care on Sept. 26 and was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 28. Doctors provided no specific details about the patient’s symptoms or the medical treatment being provided.
The Dallas physicians said there are currently no plans to move the patient from Dallas to another Ebola-ready health facility elsewhere in the U.S.
Listen to a recording of the Ebola teleconference:
Frieden confirmed the CDC has dispatched an epidemiology team to assist the Dallas medical team in treating the Ebola patient.
The CDC indicated that “from information available to us at this point,” the person infected with Ebola was not involved in providing health-care services to Ebola-infected patients in Liberia.
Only days ago, WND reported the Obama administration’s unwillingness to ban air travel from the West African nations hit by the Ebola outbreak was leaving the United States vulnerable to the disease.
“Until it’s clear that the outbreak has stopped, no one from those three countries should be permitted to enter the U.S. and all visa issuance should be suspended,” contended Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.
As WND reported, the United Nations World Health Organization has argued vigorously that cutting commercial airline service to the affected West African nations would only intensify the severity of the Ebola epidemic by restricting the ability of international health organizations to send qualified health professionals and supplies to the region to help combat the disease.
WND also reported that Dr. Lee Hieb, former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, warned that quarantine and fly restriction measures should be taken to prevent Ebola from coming to America.
“You don’t get Ebola from Europe,” she told WND. “You get Ebola from Africa. And it’s a really simple formula: Don’t let people fly to America if they’ve been to areas where there’s an outbreak. When there’s an outbreak, stop air [traffic] flow.”
The CDC has issued a traveler’s alert for all U.S. residents “to avoid travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leon because of unprecedented outbreaks of Ebola in those countries.”
In the press conference Tuesday, the CDC stressed that all passengers traveling from West Africa would be screened prior to getting on any airplanes to make ensure they’re not showing any symptoms of Ebola before flying.
“As long as Ebola continues as an epidemic in Africa, the reality is that people travel and, like in this case, individuals may travel before they have any symptoms,” Frieden said. “One of the things that CDC has done in the affected West African countries is to work with the airport authorities so 100 percent of the individuals getting on airplanes are screened for fever before they get on an airplane.
“If they have fever, they are pulled out of the line and not permitted to fly. No one flies until Ebola is ruled out, so the other passengers are safe in transit and the airlines are willing to keep flying. But that doesn’t rule out a situation like this one where someone was exposed, but they went flying while they were incubating the disease, and were not yet showing symptoms.”
The CDC said existing procedures for air travel are safe, and there is no current plan to terminate or curtail air travel from West Africa.
Anyone concerned about possible exposure may call 800-CDC-INFO for more information.