The first case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the US, in a person who traveled between Liberia and Dallas, TX. Despite not displaying symptoms when leaving West Africa, the patient showed symptoms 4 days after landing in Dallas.
On September 26th, two days after falling ill, the patient sought medical attention at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Because of the patient's travel history and symptoms - which were consistent with Ebola - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that the patient be isolated and tested for Ebola.
Specimens for testing were sent to a Texas laboratory participating in the CDC's Laboratory Response Network, and the CDC and Texas Health Department informed the patient of the test results. Close contacts of the patient are also under daily monitoring for 21 days following exposure.
"We do know how to stop Ebola's further spread," the CDC claim in a news release announcing the diagnosis. In anticipation of a case of Ebola in the US, the CDC say they have been:
- Enhancing surveillance and laboratory testing capacity in states to detect cases
- Developing guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations
- Providing recommendations for health care infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread
- Providing guidance for flight crews, Emergency Medical Services units at airports, and Customs and Border Protection officers about reporting ill travelers to the CDC
- Disseminating up-to-date information to the general public, international travelers and public health partners.
Experts do not expect 'any real transmission in the US'
Yesterday, Congressman Dr. Michael C. Burgess - of the North Texas Congressional district, close to where the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is located - issued a statement warning that, "Unfortunately, the inevitable has occurred."
Congressman Burgess' statement continued:
"In this global age in which we live, this type of spread was very likely with an epidemic of this size and scope. The scale of this outbreak is unprecedented. More than 6,000 people are confirmed to be infected, and this number is known to be greatly underreported. While our country's infection control capabilities and isolation techniques to contain the virus are strong, the seriousness of this virus and the ease with which it may be contracted makes intense vigilance in the monitoring of local contacts critical.
This is a grave situation that requires all hands on deck."
"Ebola can be scary," acknowledges CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. "But there's all the difference in the world between the US and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading."
"The United States has a strong health care system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities," Frieden continues. "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."
Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person and cannot be spread through casual contact or through the air. The CDC recommend that exposed people should be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. The organization provides more information at www.cdc.gov/ebola.
On September 10th, Medical News Today quoted experts writing in the journal PLOS Currents: Outbreaks, who said that there was a 1 in 5 chance Ebola would spread to the US by the end of September.
Although this prediction proved to be correct, co-author Ira Longini, PhD, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, reassured, "We would assume that the US would have sufficient capacity to test people and treat them. We would not expect any real transmission in the US."
The CDC report that the US public health and medical systems have previously been successful in containing similar outbreaks. As evidence, the organization points to five imported cases of viral hemorrhagic fever diseases over the past decade - similar to Ebola - which were contained in the US without any transmission.