A patient at a hospital in Dallas, Texas has been confirmed as the first case of the deadly Ebola Virus in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient, who has not been named, arrived in the US from Liberia on September 20, to visit family members. It is understood that the individual did not appear to be sick on entering the country. They were admitted to hospital on September 28.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC Director, expressed confidence that virus will be contained. “I have no doubt we will stop this in its tracks in the United States.” he told reporters. Ebola is contracted through contact with body fluids.
Due to the possibility that someone with the virus could eventually end up the US, hospitals have been preparing to deal with a potential outbreak; a team at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where the patient is currently being treated, held a crisis preparedness meeting just a week before the individual was admitted.
A person who has the Ebola virus cannot spread it unless they themselves are suffering the symptoms. Because of this, Frieden stated that there was no risk that anyone on the same flight as the patient would have become infected. With Ebola, the symptoms usually manifest within about one week, but the virus can incubate for up 21 days after initial infection. Dr. Frieden explained the initial containment measures that would be initiated. The first step will be to identify all those who could have come into contact with the patient. once identified, they will be monitored for a period of 21 days after contact.
Ebola outbreaks first occurred in Africa in the late 1970s. Since that time, to the present, nearly 3,400 people in some seven African countries, have been killed by the virus. The current outbreak in West Africa has been deadliest in Liberia, but has also hit Sierra Leone and Guinea, with a few cases also reported in Nigeria and Senegal. Ebola has killed more than 3,000 people in those countries since the current outbreak began.
Ebola does not spread through the air and, therefore, is considered only moderately contagious. It is, however, highly infectious, as sickness can result from exposure to just a tiny amount of the virus. In past outbreaks, the virus has killed up to 90 percent of those who became infected but, in the current West African outbreak, the fatality rate has held steady at around 50 percent.
The symptoms of Ebola include fever, muscle aches and weakness, vomiting and diarrhea, although more serious symptoms such as internal bleeding can also occur. Anyone who suspects that they may have contracted the disease is urged to call the CDC hotline, 800-CDC-INFO. The President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Liberian Community Association, Stanley Gaye, said that members of the community are trying to find out if anyone knows the patient or patient’s family. “We’ve been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings.” He added.
Americans who have been working with the containment and aid efforts in Liberia have been flown to the US in the past, after having contracted the virus; three out of four who were sick with Ebola have since recovered. This, however, is the first confirmed case of an individual already in the US becoming ill with the disease. Frieden does not believe that Ebola threatens the US in the same way it currently threatens Africa. Speaking at press conference, he said “I have no doubt that we will control this importation or this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely throughout this country.”
Graham J Noble