During a teleconference Tuesday evening at the CDC in Atlanta, Director Dr. Tom Frieden confirmed the first Ebola case diagnosed in the U.S. The patient was admitted and placed into isolation on September 28th at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. This is also the first person diagnosed outside of Africa with Ebola Zaire.
The patient, identified only as someone traveling from Liberia visiting and staying with family in the U.S., left Liberia on September 19th but had no symptoms until September 26th when he initially sought care at Texas Health Presbyterian.
Dr. Edward Goodman, Epidemiologist with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, says the hospital has a “robust” infection control system, saying “just the week before” the hospital conducted a meeting with stakeholders of a potential Ebola outbreak to map out a plan of action so the hospital would be prepared.
Answering several questions about the potential risk of infection for those who might have flown from Liberia with the Ebola patient, the CDC’s Dr. Frieden emphasized that “Ebola doesn’t spread before someone gets sick and [this patient] didn’t get sick until four days until he got off of that airline.”
Ebola has an eight to 10 day incubation rate, surfacing sometimes in as little as two days but can lay dormant for up to 21 days.
“Ebola is a scary disease,” Dr. Frieden said. “At the same time we’re stopping it in its tracks and the way we’re doing that is two-fold: with strong health care infection control and strong core public health functions…that stop the chain of infection.”
One of the “core” functions is the laborious process of mapping all people the Ebola patient might have come into contact with, then monitoring all of them for 21 days for any signs of infection.
The CDC says has team en route to Dallas now to work collaboratively with public health officials to create a map of the times, places, and contacts of all people the Dallas Ebola patient contacted. If any of those people on the map develop fever, those patients’ contacts are traced as well.
All of the public health officials involved in the teleconference emphasized the media focus should be placed on the health of the patient, currently listed as “critically ill,” saying this is no cause for panic. Ebola is not an airborne disease. They reiterated it is only spread by direct contact by body fluids with someone who currently has symptoms.
Dr. Frieden says the public health community will stop the spread of Ebola “in its tracks.” Adding, he also has no doubt the health community should be “on their guard.”