Patient tests positive for Ebola in Dallas

DALLAS -- A patient in a Dallas hospital was confirmed to have the deadly Ebola virus, the Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday. Within hours, a team of CDC investigators arrived in North Texas to begin working on the first-ever case of this strain of the Ebola virus confirmed in the U.S.

The Dallas patient remains in "strict isolation" at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Officials said there are no plans to transfer the him to a specialized hospital with a biocontainment unit at this time.

Officials would not confirm or deny if he was an American citizen, saying only he was "visiting family in the U.S."

Gov. Rick Perry made comments about the Ebola case during a campaign stop in New York Tuesday. Gov. Perry plans to visit Dallas on Wednesday to evaluate the response to this health emergency.

The Ebola test was conducted at the state public health laboratory in Austin, according to the the Texas Department of State Health Services.

"I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a Tuesday afternoon news conference in Atlanta. "It is certainly possible that someone who has had contact with this patient could develop Ebola. But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here."

The Dallas Fire-Rescue crew that transported the Ebola patient on Sunday is now under quarantine. The city has activated its Emergency Operations Center on "Level 2: High Readiness" in response to Tuesday's developments.

According to the CDC, the patient acquired the virus in West Africa, though they are not sure how he was infected. He was not involved in stopping the Ebola outbreak in Africa, where the disease has claimed more than 3,000 lives.

The patient traveled by commercial airline to visit family in the U.S., but Frieden said they will not release the flight number unless the CDC receives additional information that would mean those on the flight were at risk of infection. Frieden said based on the information they have, the patient would not have been at the stage of the virus in which he could transmit it to others at the time of the flight.

"There is zero risk of transmission on the flight," Frieden said. "He was checked for fever before getting on the flight."

Frieden also gave a brief timeline of the patient's infection in his comments Tuesday afternoon.

  • Sept. 19: The adult patient boards a fight to the U.S. in Liberia after being screened for Ebola symptoms
  • Sept. 20: The patient arrives in the United States
  • Sept. 24: Patient shows first symptoms of Ebola
  • Sept. 26: Patient seeks initial medical care
  • Sept. 28: Patient admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

A Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital spokesman said the patient has been in isolation since he arrived on Sunday, and hospital officials had been "meeting for weeks in anticipation of such an event." He added that the facility has a "robust infection control system" in place.

Dr. Frieden said he believes "a handful" of people had contact with the patient between the September 24-28, including family members and "a couple" of community members. Those people are to be monitored by the CDC starting Tuesday.

The virus is not contagious until symptoms are present. Early symptoms of Ebola include sudden fever, fatigue, and headache. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure.

RELATED: Fast facts on Ebola

Frieden said the next steps are to care for the patient and keep to a minimum the chance the virus may spread, while identifying all people the patient was in contact with while he could transmit the virus. Those people will be monitored for 21 days and isolated if they develop a fever during that time.

"Contact-tracing is something we do day-in and day-out, and something we do well," Frieden said.

Frieden conceded that others may have been infected in the United States, but said there was "no doubt" in his mind that the infection will be contained to the current patient and anyone he may have had contact with.

Hospital officials also said the patient will not be given ZMapp, the experimental serum given to Dr. Kenneth Brantly and Nancy Writebol, American aid workers who caught the virus in Africa and were later treated in the U.S. The supplies of ZMapp have run out.

"This person is being isolated, and we are evaluating the situation, and we'll act accordingly," said Dr. C.J. Perkins of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

While the situation is serious, Dallas County officials stress the conditions in the United States are a world away from the developing countries devastated by Ebola, and that every hospital in North Texas should already be equipped to contain a contagious disease.

"It is easier to get the flu than to get Ebola, so Dallas County residents should go about their daily activities -- [we] don't feel that there is a public health threat," said Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson.

State health officials said no other cases are suspected in Texas.

Specimens from the patient were tested by a state laboratory and confirmed in a separate test by the Centers for Disease Control, said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, located at Greenville Avenue and Walnut Hill Lane in Northeast Dallas, said it's complying with all recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Texas Department of Health to ensure the safety of other patients and medical staff.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital officials said the staff that treated the patient will be closely observed by the CDC, but stressed that personnel were immediately suspicious of Ebola when the patient described his symptoms and background, and that the virus can only be spread by direct contact with bodily fluids, which they don't believe happened in this case.

Dallas County Health and Human Services officials told News 8 Tuesday the CDC had mobilized a group of epidemiologists who specialize in viral containment.

Thompson said Dallas County is ready to care for the patient.

"This is not Africa," Thompson said. "We have a great infrastructure to deal with an outbreak."

Ebola has infected 6,553 people and has killed 3,083 in the three countries hit hardest by the epidemic — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — the World Health Organization says. The number of cases has been doubling every three weeks, and the CDC estimates that the disease could affect up to 1.4 million people by January if it's not quickly put under control.

Twelve other people in the U.S. have been tested for Ebola since July 27, according to the CDC. All of those tests were negative.

Frieden said that in the past, there have been five cases of patients with similar hemorrhagic fevers in the U.S. — including Lassa fever and Marburg virus — and none of them infected anyone else.

Four American aid workers who became infected while volunteering in West Africa have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska, and a U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.

Fort Worth physician Dr. Kent Brantly, who became infected while working in Liberia, recovered after being moved to a hospital in Atlanta.

The U.S. has only four such isolation units, but the CDC has insisted that any hospital can safely care for someone with Ebola.

President Obama has committed more than $750 million in resources and is deploying 3,000 troops to help combat the spread of Ebola abroad. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., noted that Congress also authorized $58 million in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services to expedite development, testing and production of a vaccine and treatment.

Several other U.S. hospitals have previously raised alerts in connection with patients who presented Ebola-like symptoms, but all those cases tested negative for the virus.

Since the summer months, U.S. health officials have been preparing for the possibility that an individual traveler could unknowingly arrive with the infection. Health authorities have advised hospitals on how to prevent the virus from spreading within their facilities.

People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but that does not guarantee that an infected person won't get through. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.

Ebola is a severe, and Ebola is often a fatal disease, according to the DSHS.

RELATED : Signs and symptoms of Ebola

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear, according to the DSHS.

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.

The Associated Press, USA TODAY's Liz Szabo and News 8's Sebastian Robertson contributed to this story.


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