None of the people known to have been in close contact with a Dallas Ebola patient has a fever or any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday. It's good news so far in the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States, but CDC and state health officials will keep checking potential contacts daily just to be sure.
The Dallas hospital where patient Thomas Eric Duncan is in critical condition is answering questions about delays in his treatment. Duncan's condition was downgraded Saturday from serious but stable to critical. He was sent home on Sept. 26 even though he felt sick and had told a nurse he recently arrived from his native Liberia, only to return by ambulance two days later. During those two days, he was in contact with as many as 50 people.
"We've been very busy the last 24 hours trying to make sure that everyone who has had potential exposure is identified, and they have been evaluated," Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey told a news conference.
CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said nine people had known contact close with Duncan and that they were all well. His girlfriend and others he was staying with have been moved to a house from a cramped apartment where they were under media siege for days, and the apartment has been cleaned. About 40 or so other people may or may not have had contact, and they are being watched just to be safe.
Duncan's case has made hospitals hyper-aware of the virus and its symptoms, Frieden says. CDC has received more than 100 calls about possible cases, and has felt about 15 merited actual testing for Ebola. So far, Duncan's is the only actual case of Ebola. In the past day at least three hospitals have said they had suspected cases that have all turned out to be something else, such as malaria. "We have definitely seen an increase in the numbers since this patient was diagnosed," Frieden said. "That is as it should be," he added. "We would rather have a wider net cast so that we are more likely to find someone promptly if they did have exposure."
Lakey said this case should have grabbed the attention of health professionals. "You've got to ask that travel history and take it seriously," he said.
Five Americans are known to have been infected during visits to West Africa. While some of them have recovered, the latest victim — an NBC News freelance cameraman — is returning to the U.S. on Sunday for treatment in Nebraska.
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