A man who flew from Liberia to Texas has become the first patient infected with the deadly ebola virus to be diagnosed in the United States, health officials said, a sign the outbreak ravaging West Africa may spread globally.
The patient sought treatment six days after arriving in Texas on September 20, Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters. He was admitted two days later to an isolation room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
US health officials and lawmakers have been bracing for the eventuality that a patient would arrive on US shores undetected, testing the preparedness of the nation’s healthcare system. Frieden and other health authorities said they were taking every step possible to ensure the virus did not spread widely.
“It is certainly possible someone who had contact with this individual could develop ebola in the coming weeks,” Frieden told a news conference. “I have no doubt we will stop this in its tracks in the United States.”
Frieden said a handful of people, mostly family members, may have been exposed to the patient after he fell ill and that health authorities were tracking down anyone who might have had contact with the man.
The emergency responders who transported him to the hospital have been quarantined, according to a statement from Dallas city officials.
He said there was likely no threat to any airline passengers because the patient had no symptoms during his flight.
Asked whether the patient was a US citizen, Frieden described the person as a visitor to family in the country. At least 3,091 people have died from ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in West Africa.
The CDC has warned the number of infections could rise to as many as 1.4m by early next year without a massive global intervention.
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