The citizens of the United States of America have a reason to worry (no matter how much the govt might tell that there is none) since a man who took a commercial flight from Liberia that landed in Dallas on Sept. 20 has been found to have the Ebola virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday. The fact is that he is the first traveler to have brought the virus to the United States on a passenger plane and moreover, he’s also the first who has been diagnosed with Ebola outside Africa.
As many health officials had earlier predicted, it would only be a matter of time when the disease would travel across the Atlantic and come into the US. Before today, there have been incidents where hospitals and health departments around the country have been going through false alarms but this time, the case is real. Ebola is indeed inside the United States.
But there is some good news as well. Because Ebola is not contagious until symptoms develop, chances are very low that the patient infected anyone else on the flight, said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the disease centers.
Ebola is spread only by direct contact with body fluids from someone who is ill.
A team from the C.D.C. is being dispatched to Dallas to help trace any contacts who may have been infected, including family members, health care workers and others with whom the patient spent time in Dallas. Health officials in Texas said they had already begun that process. Dr. Frieden said the family and community contacts were few, no more than a handful. But he said it was possible that family members who were with the man while he was ill would turn out to be infected.
Contact tracing involves identifying people who might have been exposed to the patient during the time he was infectious, and then monitoring them for symptoms every day for 21 days — the full incubation period of the disease. Most people develop symptoms within eight to 10 days of being exposed. Anyone who starts running a fever or having symptoms is then isolated and tested for Ebola. If the test is positive, that person is kept in isolation and treated, and his or her contacts are then traced for 21 days. The process is repeated until there are no new cases.
Describing these methods as “tried and true,” Dr. Frieden said, “I have no doubt that we’ll stop this in its tracks in the U.S.”
What happened actually was that he first fell ill. Naturally, the man first sought medical help on Friday, and was treated and sent home. However, as we believe, Ebola was not recognized. Officials did not say where that initial visit took place. Dr. Frieden said the early symptoms of Ebola, like fever and nausea, can easily be mistaken for other illnesses. But he added that public health experts have for months been urging doctors and nurses to take a travel history on anyone who shows up with such symptoms and to be on the alert for Ebola in anyone who has been to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.
With worsening symptoms, the man sought care again on Sunday, and was then admitted to the hospital in Dallas and placed in isolation. Blood samples arrived at the disease centers on Tuesday, and tested positive for Ebola. A state lab in Texas also tested samples, and got positive results.
We believe that Dr. Frieden briefed President Obama by telephone on Tuesday afternoon about the case, explaining what the White House described as the “stringent isolation protocols” being used to treat the patient and efforts to trace the patient’s contacts to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading.
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