By Staff Reporter
American health officials said on Wednesday that an individual who had recently travelled to the US from west Africa was being treated for Ebola, the first case of the deadly virus to be diagnosed in the US.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the individual had travelled to the US from Liberia, one of the African countries that has been most affected by the infectious disease, and had been in the country for 10 days.
As well as being the first ever diagnosis of Ebola in the US, the CDC said it was the first time this current strain of the virus had been diagnosed outside of Africa.
Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said the man had potentially been infectious for four days before being isolated in a hospital in Dallas, Texas. Health officials had begun a systematic process of “contact tracing” to monitor the people he had met during this four-day window.
“This is core public health work – this is what we do in public health,” he said. “Ebola is a scary disease but we are stopping it in its tracks in this country.”
The first sign of the disease spreading beyond west Africa comes after the CDC warned last week that between 550,000 to 1.4m people in Africa could be infected with the virus by January. At the same time, a group of scientists published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine urging a much stronger international effort to combat the disease and warning that the current outbreak could be “unprecedented in scale”.
Figures from the World Health Organisation show that the current outbreak has an infection rate of about 50 per cent.
The CDC gave little information about the infected man other than to say he was “visiting family members in this country”.
Dr Frieden said the man travelled to the US on September 20 but did not start to feel ill until September 24 and was put into an isolation facility at a hospital on September 28.
Dr Frieden said that as people are only infectious once they became ill, there was “zero risk” the man transmitted the disease while on the plane that brought him to the US. However, health officials were examining all his contacts during the four days when he could have transmitted the disease, which Dr Frieden said included family members and “two or three other community members”.
Anyone who came into contact with the man will be monitored for 21 days and will also be placed in an isolation facility if they show signs of coming down with a fever.
Four American health workers who were infected and diagnosed with the virus while in west Africa have been treated in the US.