The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed Tuesday that the first case of Ebola has appeared in the U.S. A man in Dallas, who is not a health care worker, has tested positive for the virus, the agency says. The man flew to the U.S. from Liberia, arriving on Sept. 20, and wasn’t sick on the flight, and had no symptoms when he arrived, according to NPR.
The person sought medical care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas after developing symptoms consistent with Ebola. Based on the person’s travel history and symptoms, CDC recommended testing for Ebola. The medical facility isolated the patient and sent specimens for testing at CDC and at a Texas lab participating in CDC’s Laboratory Response Network. CDC and the Texas Health Department reported the laboratory test results to the medical center to inform the patient. Local public health officials have begun identifying close contacts of the person for further daily monitoring for 21 days after exposure, according to the CDC.
The ill person did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa and CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring, as Ebola is only contagious if the person is experiencing active symptoms. The person reported developing symptoms several days after the return flight. Anyone concerned about possible exposure may call CDC-Info at 800-CDC-INFO for more information, according to the CDC’s press release.
The CDC says that they have been anticipating and preparing for a case of Ebola in the United States. 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 healthcare 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 CDC
- Disseminating up-to-date information to the general public, international travelers, and public health partners
Curiously the CDC’s website states that the chances of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is “very low.” Ebola is only spread via direct contact with body fluids, and isn’t contagious until symptoms appear. But that hasn’t saved the people of West Africa from what has become an epic outbreak of Ebola. As of Thursday, there have been more 6,500 cases across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. More 3,000 people have died of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.