According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) news conference this afternoon, about 20 hours ago a patient was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas with symptoms and travel history which suggest the patient may have contracted Ebola.
Since then the diagnosis of Ebola has been confirmed by blood tests.
The patient had been in Liberia recently, leaving that country on September 19 and it is supposed that the person was exposed to the virus in that country.
Although the headlines will be alarming, there is really little if anything new here. Other Ebola patients have been brought to the U.S. for treatment. The only real difference in this case was that the individual in Dallas was “diagnosed” first in the U.S. and first began showing symptoms (mainly fever) only here in Texas.
That means this is the first instance where an undiagnosed individual was in the U.S. and therefore not kept in medical isolation during an infections period.
Although the patient had been home in this country for about 8 days, he/she was only potentially infectious for about four days and unlikely to be moving around much since they were showing symptoms including fever.
Ebola, for all its scary press is not in reality very dangerous to others or likely to spread and, because he or she was showing no symptoms until several days after returning to the U.S., there is little to no possibility that anyone on the airplane or in the airports the patient passed through could have been exposed to the Ebola virus.
In fact all airline passengers leaving the dangerous regions of Africa are screened for fever and no one is allowed to board if they have a fever – at least not until it is shown that they do not have Ebola.
The CDC has also reportedly begun providing special guidelines to funeral homes in the U.S. about how to handle Ebola casualties.
To date there have been 6553 confirmed cases in Africa with more than 3,000 deaths resulting so far. As I reported earlier that does not mean the infection is now less likely to be fatal than earlier outbreaks.
The fact that only about half the people infected in Africa, where there is little health care, have died so far was misstated on CNN today Dr. Sanjay Gupta who made the mistake of saying the mortality rate is only about 50% for this outbreak, completely forgetting that many of those infected were recently hospitalized and are likely to die.
So much for placing trust in information from an “Emmy”award winning medical spokesperson.
But the threat from Ebola is being exaggerated in the mainstream press because, although it is very deadly, this is not a highly infectious disease, in fact patients are only really infections once they are quite ill, often already under medical care. Even then it takes contact with fresh bodily fluids to cause an infection.
Virtually any hospital in the U.S. or other developed country would have standard isolation procedures more than capable to isolating potential Ebola patients and protecting both medical workers and other patients in the facility.
The unidentified patient is now in strict isolation in the hospital.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director CDC spoke at a press conference in Atlanta at 5:45 today, September 30, indicating that there were several steps being taken.
First, care for patient was a top priority.
Second, the CDC would work to identify all possible contacts after the time when the patient began running a fever – that was when he/she first became infectious. Those individuals will be monitored for the 21 days in which they would begin to show symptoms if they had in fact been exposed.
Arriving home on the 20th, the patient began showing symptoms four days later and then 4-5 days later the individual was placed in isolation.
During that 4-5 day period the patient was showing symptoms and therefore was infectious.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever with symptoms similar to that of extreme radiation exposure. The term “hemorrhagic” refers to blood and a hemorrhagic disease essentially breaks down the blood vessels causing blood to leak into the body.
Since Ebola is a virus there is no good treatment for it, such as an anti-viral drug, and the patient must defeat it with their own immune system. To keep them alive long enough for this to happen you must give them oxygen and a lot of intravenous fluids.