HOUSTON - Doctors in Dallas, Texas say they have diagnosed the first case of Ebola in the United States. The patient, whose identity has not been revealed, arrived on a flight from Liberia earlier this month, but showed no signs of illness until a few days later.
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Frieden, says the patient infected with the Ebola virus was healthy when he or she left Liberia and while on the flight to the United States.
"This individual left Liberia on the 19th of September, arrived in the U.S. on the 20th of September, had no symptoms when departing Liberia or entering this country, but four or five days later, around the 24th of September, began to develop symptoms," said Frieden.
Frieden stressed that until the symptoms appeared, the person posed no threat of infection to anyone else. He said authorities are now trying to identify anyone who may have had contact with the infected person during the period when the symptoms first appeared to the time the patient went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas for treatment.
Those people will be closely monitored for a few weeks to make sure they did not contract the disease. A hospital spokesperson says the infected patient is in intensive care, but would not reveal any further information out of concern for the individual's privacy.
Doctors working on this case say Ebola can be easily contained through good public health practices, immediate quarantine of anyone showing symptoms and monitoring of people with whom that person came into contact. Frieden says the virus cannot be transmitted through the air, but only through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person manifesting symptoms.
“While we do not currently know how this individual became infected, they undoubtedly had contact with someone who was sick with Ebola or who died from it," he said.
Early symptoms of Ebola include fever, sore throat and muscle aches. As the disease progresses, it produces hemorrhagic fever, which can cause bleeding and organ failure.
Although American health workers who were diagnosed in Africa were flown back to the U.S. for treatment, the Texas man is the first patient to be diagnosed inside the United States.
Ebola has killed nearly 3,100 people and infected more than 6,500 in West Africa. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the most affected countries.
The virus causes uncontrollable bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea. It is spread by direct contact with the body fluids of infected patients.
There is no specific treatment, but an American doctor diagnosed with the virus was found to be Ebola-free after taking an experimental drug last month.
President Barack Obama has called Ebola a national security priority for the United States. He has called on the rest of the world to also regard it as a threat.
The Pentagon said Tuesday it is sending 700 U.S. soldiers to Liberia to help that country handle the outbreak. Seven hundred Army engineers also will help build treatment centers. No U.S. military personnel will provide direct care to Ebola patients.
Elsewhere in West Africa, the CDC said Tuesday it looks like the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria has been contained. Officials said there have been no new cases since August 31, and the 21-day monitoring period of those who came in contact with those infected ends Thursday. There were 19 confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria.
The CDC also says Senegal avoided an Ebola epidemic when authorities there isolated that country's only Ebola case in August.
Twelve other people in the U.S. have been tested for Ebola since July 27. The CDC said all those tests came back negative.
The White House says President Barack Obama discussed the CDC's stringent isolation procedures with Frieden, who noted that the CDC was prepared for an Ebola case in the U.S.
The data health officials have seen in the past few decades since Ebola was discovered indicate that it is not spread through casual contact or through the air. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person or exposure to objects such as needles that have been contaminated.
The illness has an average 8-10 day incubation period (although it ranges from 2 to 21 days); CDC recommends monitoring exposed people for symptoms a complete 21 days. People are not contagious after exposure unless they develop symptoms.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters.