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State and federal health officials have cut to 50 the list of people who may have been in direct contact with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, saying they’re still throwing a very wide net to be extra careful.
Teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas state health department are following up on anyone who touched Duncan, took his blood or tested it, just to make sure he did not accidentally infect someone else during the days he was sick and before he was put into isolation.
It’s called contact tracing, and it involves checking everyone on the list, every day for 21 days — the longest possible incubation period for Ebola.
“There are about 50 individuals that we feel we need to follow on a daily basis,” Texas state health commissioner Dr. David Lakey told reporters. “Most of those individuals are at low risk. There are about 10 individuals at high risk.” The high-risk people — Duncan’s girlfriend Louise, her children, others who were with him while he was showing symptoms — are being asked to take their temperatures twice a day.
Healthcare workers such as EMT crews who picked up Duncan and brought him to the hospital, technicians who handled blood, and nurses who examined him are being furloughed with pay and asked to stay home. Those at lower risk are not being asked to stay put — there’s no risk to anyone from someone who isn’t sick — but being asked to report any symptoms such as fever right away.
“I think it is important to remember and recognize that we are not suggesting we have a great deal of concern about all these people because the reality is we have a low level of concern about the vast majority of the people we are following,” said CDC’s Dr. Beth Bell.
“We are just being extremely cautious and careful.”
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