On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. The patient was an airline passenger traveling from Liberia to Dallas, arriving on Sept. 20. The man is currently being treated at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
“Ebola can be scary. But there’s all the difference in the world between the U.S. and parts of Africa where Ebola is spreading. The United States has a strong health care system and public health professionals who will make sure this case does not threaten our communities,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a news release. “While it is not impossible that there could be additional cases associated with this patient in the coming weeks, I have no doubt that we will contain this.”
The patient didn’t show any signs when he was departing West Africa on Sept. 19, but developed symptoms consistent with Ebola about five days after arriving in the U.S. to visit family. Health officials check passengers for symptoms before they board. He was hospitalized on Sept. 28 and isolated based on his symptoms and travel history, while specimens were sent for testing at CDC and a state lab.
A CDC team has been dispatched to Dallas, and officials are working on identifying people who’ve had close, personal contact with the patient. "Contact tracing is something we do day-in and day-out, and something we do well," Frieden said at a news conference in Atlanta. The agency won’t be releasing the flight number, unless additional information indicates that other passengers might be at risk. Ebola is only contagious if the person is experiencing active symptoms.
The CDC isn’t sure of how he was infected, though they do know he wasn’t involved in stopping the outbreak in Africa, according to the Dallas-Fort Worth news station WFAA. American aid workers in the past have become infected while volunteering overseas. “This is not Africa," Zachary Thompson of the Dallas County Health and Human Services told WFAA. "We have a great infrastructure to deal with an outbreak."
The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest in history, and the total case count (updated September 29th) is 6,574 in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. There have been 3,091 deaths.
Symptoms, which may appear anywhere between two and 21 days, include: fever of over 38.6 degrees Celsius, vomiting, and unexplained hemorrhage. The U.S. Department of Defense has funded two companies that are developing drug therapies and is working with another to develop a vaccine.