Ebola in US: 'There is no reason to panic about the disease spreading,' expert says

The man was in Texas for days before being admitted to hospital

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 01 October 2014 13:50
Comments

There is no reason to panic about Ebola spreading in the US from its first infected patient, an expert has said.

An unnamed man was diagnosed days after he arrived back in the country after visiting family in Liberia, where the disease has killed more than 2,000 people and infected many more.

Concerns have been raised about the virus spreading after it emerged that the patient was in Texas for four days before his symptoms showed, following a long-haul flight in close quarters to other passengers on a plane.

When he turned up to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Friday, he was sent home with antibiotics because doctors failed to diagnose the “nondescript” symptoms.

Dr Edward Wright, a virology expert at the University of Westminster who is currently testing a possible Ebola vaccine in Oxford, said the chances of other people being infected were small.

“People infected with Ebola are not able to pass on the virus until they are symptomatic,” he told The Independent.

“The level of the virus in the body is so low at that point that it can’t be transmitted.”

The risk heightens when the illness develops, usually with fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding.

Ebola is transmitted through contact with infected people’s bodily fluids, including sweat, blood and vomit.

Some people are infected by contact with a victim or cleaning up after them. The virus can survive for several days outside the body on soiled clothing and anything a patient has touched.

Dr Wright said such transmission was unlikely in the US, where the Ebola patient has been treated in isolation since Sunday.

Hospital staff are following protocol for the treatment of the disease by wearing gowns, gloves and shoe and eye protection to stop the spread of the virus.

“In the early stages between arriving back in the US and being admitted to hospital, there was a chance [of transmission] but it was a small one,” Dr Wright said.

“The reason the virus is causing such a problem in West Africa is because the world was notified too late to provide the medical infrastructure needed to stop the spread, but in the US and Europe it’s already in place.”

The paramedics who took the American Ebola patient to hospital have been quarantined and police are tracing any friends and family who may have come into contact with him.

It is understood that the man will not be treated with the experimental Zmapp drug, which has been used on several patients who have survived.

Tom Frieden, director at America’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said Ebola will be “stopped in its tracks” in the US.

“I have no doubt that – as long as the outbreak continues in Africa – we need to be on our guard,” he added.

“But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in