Ebola in the US: Officials scrambling to track down all in contact with infected patient

First man diagnosed on US soil will be ‘interviewed’ to identify people at risk of infection

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Wednesday 01 October 2014 16:20

US health officials are attempting to hunt down anyone who came into contact with the first man in America to have been diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus, believing to have already found between 12 and 18 possible cases.

In an effort to stop the virus from spreading, officials from the US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) have already started tracing those who came into contact with the unnamed patient now being treated at a hospital in Dallas, Texas.

The man, who had travelled to the US from Liberia to visit family, was diagnosed with Ebola on Tuesday, and is being kept in isolation in hospital.

Health officials are now attempting to identify all the people who came into contact with the man while he was infectious in order to stop any potential outbreak, starting by interviewing the patient and then his family members.

CDC director Dr Tom Friedman had said it is likely that a “handful” people in the US have been exposed to the virus, including the family members that the patient was staying with.

But the city of Dallas has since said it is evaluating between 12 and 18 people that the patient has confirmed to have been in contact with.

Officials are stilll identifying people who may be at primary and secondary levels of risk of infection, through building “concentric circles”.

The first circle will try to identify all those who could have been exposed to Ebola by the infected patient, and the second circle will encompass all the people that may have interacted with those identified in the first circle.

“With that we put together a map essentially that identifies the time, the place, the level of the contact,” Dr Frieden said, “then we use a concentric circle approach to identify those contacts who might have had the highest risk of exposure, those with intermediate risk”.

Those found to be at risk of having been infected will be monitored for at least 21 days, the length of the Ebola incubation period.

The paramedics who attended to the patient when he was taken to hospital on Sunday are currently being kept in isolation in their homes and are being monitored for any symptom developments, and the ambulance is in quarantine.

Dr Friedman said he did not believe people travelling on the same flight as the patient from Liberia to the US are at risk, as the man will not have become infectious until he started experiencing the symptoms of Ebola.

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