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American Ebola Patient's Condition Called 'Serious'


Workers must wear protective gear to care for patients with Ebola or other infectious disease in the NIH Clinical Center's high containment unit. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Institutes of Health)

An American health care worker infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone is "seriously ill," officials at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s hospital in suburban Washington announced Friday.

The patient — whose name, sex and age were being withheld for privacy reasons — contracted the illness while working at an Ebola treatment center. The patient was transported by chartered plane and was admitted at 4:44 a.m. local time to NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Care was being provided in a high-security containment facility.

"NIH physicians have evaluated the patient with Ebola virus disease and have determined that the patient’s condition is serious," an NIH statement said.

The New York Times reported Thursday that a worker from the U.S. medical aid organization Partners In Health had been infected. The organization, in a news release, acknowledged that a clinician had tested positive for Ebola, the first "as a result of a confirmed occupational exposure since PIH began treating patients in Liberia and Sierra Leone in November 2014."

FILE - Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hugs Nina Pham as she's discharged from treatment in Bethesda, Maryland, Oct. 24, 2014.
FILE - Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hugs Nina Pham as she's discharged from treatment in Bethesda, Maryland, Oct. 24, 2014.

Earlier Friday, a female British military health care worker who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone was flown back to the United Kingdom, along with two workers who have been in close contact with her.

U.S. health officials said a second American who might have been exposed to Ebola in Sierra Leone was being flown to the Atlanta area to be close to Emory University Hospital, another U.S. treatment center designed to treat the most dangerous pathogens.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said the second person had not tested positive for Ebola but was being moved "out of an abundance of caution."

It said it was developing contingency plans to return other Americans who had potentially been exposed to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. It said the individuals would be under voluntary isolation and would be actively monitored.

The person flown to Maryland was the 11th Ebola patient receiving care in the United States and the second at the NIH facility. The first was a nurse, Nina Pham, who has since recovered. She contracted the disease while caring for the first U.S. patient with Ebola, a West African man treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Thomas Eric Duncan died there October 8 after having been turned away from its emergency room days earlier.

Attorneys for Pham last month sued the Texas hospital, complaining of its "lack of training and proper equipment, and violations of her privacy," The Dallas Morning News reported.

The NIH, in a statement, said its hospital's special clinical studies unit was "designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious diseases and critical care specialists."

Health care workers, operating on the front lines of Ebola treatment, continue to be disproportionately infected by the epidemic. The World Health Organization’s Thursday update shows 24,350 cases and 10,004 deaths have been reported since December 2013, primarily in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, though it estimates the actual numbers in each category are far higher.
Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.