In what is shaping up to be the worst-kept news embargo of all time, this afternoon the CDC has announced that the first undiagnosed Ebola case has arrived in the United States, and has tested positive after being isolated in a Dallas, Texas hospital since yesterday.
Now, before anyone is tempted to head down to the bunker, this was an expected development and one for which hospitals and public health departments across the country have been preparing for some time.
While it is conceivable that an Ebola infected visitor could pass on the virus to close contacts here in the United States, the risks of seeing a significant outbreak here are considered low. We have a public health infrastructure in place that can do contact tracing and health monitoring for the incubation period of up to 21 days.
At this time there are no other suspected cases in Texas.
The CDC’s timeline has the patient leaving Liberia on September 19th, and arriving on the 20th. At that time, the patient was not symptomatic. Several days later the patient became unwell (24th), and apparently went to a hospital or clinic on the 26th, but was not diagnosed with the disease (early symptoms are often non-specific), and sent home.
Two days later the patient returned to the hospital with more severe symptoms and was placed into isolation. Very few details regarding the patient, his possible exposures in Liberia, and his condition have been released.
The news conference – which should be archived on the CDC Media site in the next couple of days - included statements and answers from:
Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H,
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
David Lakey, M.D.,
Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services
Edward Goodman, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA
Hospital Epidemiologist, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Zachary Thompson, M.A.
Director, Dallas County Health and Human Services
As Dr. Thomas Frieden stated in this news conference, as long as the Ebola epidemic continues to rage in West Africa, we have to be prepared for the possibility of additional cases like this showing up in the United States.
The Texas Department of Health has released the following statement:
September 30, 2014
A Texas hospital patient has tested positive for Ebola, making the patient the first case diagnosed in the United States. The test was conducted at the state public health laboratory in Austin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the positive result.
The patient is an adult with a recent history of travel to West Africa. The patient developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from West Africa and was admitted into isolation on Sunday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is working with the CDC, the local health department and the hospital to investigate the case and work to prevent transmission of the disease. The hospital has implemented infection control measures to help ensure the safety of patients and staff.
Ebola is a severe, often fatal disease. Early symptoms of Ebola include sudden fever, fatigue and headache. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood, secretions or other bodily fluids or exposure to contaminated objects, such as needles. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.
The CDC recommends that individuals protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are ill with Ebola. DSHS also encourages health care providers to ask patients about recent travel and consider Ebola in patients with fever and a history of travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and some parts of Nigeria within 21 days of the onset of symptoms.