Health officials confirm first case of deadly virus in United States

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A man who became infected with Ebola in Liberia and travelled to Texas is the first confirmed case of the deadly virus in the United States, health officials have confirmed.

The director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Thomas Frieden, told a press conference that the patient left Liberia on September 19 and arrived in the US the following day.

Dr Frieden described the patient as a visitor to family in the United States.

“This individual… had no symptoms when departing Liberia or entering this country but four or five days later… began to develop symptoms,” he said.

“On the 26th of September, [the patient] initially sought care and [on] Sunday the 28th of September was admitted to a hospital in Texas and placed in isolation.”

Dr Frieden, who has briefed president Barack Obama on the case, said results from “highly accurate” testing proved positive for the Ebola virus.

“The next steps are basically threefold,” he said.

“First, to care for the patient… [and] to keep to an absolute minimum the likelihood, the possibility that anyone would become infected.

“Second, we identify all people who may have had contact with the patient while he could have been infectious.
“[And] once those contacts are all identified, they’re all monitored for 21 days after exposure to see if they develop fever.

“If they develop fever, then those same criteria are used to isolate them and make sure that they are cared for as well as possible… and to minimise or eliminate the chance that they would infect other people.”

While admitting that is it “certainly possible” that someone who had contact with the patient could develop Ebola in the coming weeks, the spokesman said he had “no doubt” that the US would control the importation of Ebola.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here,” he said.

Dr Frieden said there was likely no threat to any airline passengers because the patient had no symptoms during his flight.

The patient is the first to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US, although a handful of US medical workers who were infected in West Africa were flown back to the US for treatment, and have since recovered.

The world’s largest outbreak of Ebola has infected 6,574 people across five West African countries, and killed 3,091, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Ebola a ‘global security issue’

The Ebola outbreak overwhelmed health systems in Africa, one of the world’s poorest regions, prompting the US government and other nations to send funds, supplies and personnel to stop its spread.

The Dallas case “underscores that Ebola is a global and national security issue and that we need to double-down on our efforts to help West Africa get this outbreak under control,” vice-president for public health preparedness and response at Texas A&M Health Science Centre, Gerald Parker, said.

Dr Frieden said US hospitals are well-prepared to handle Ebola patients and assured the public the virus should not pose the same threat in the United States as it does in Africa.

“Americans need to remain calm and listen to the precautionary measures being suggested by the CDC,” US Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware who also chairs the Senate foreign relations subcommittee on African affairs.

“It was only a matter of time before an Ebola case would emerge here in the United States, but as we’re seeing in Dallas today, our public health system has the resources, capabilities and knowledge to address and contain this virus quickly and safely.”

Ebola symptoms generally appear between two and 21 days after infection, meaning there is a significant window during which an infected person can escape detection.
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