The first case of ebola has come to the emergency department of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and now is isolated and being carefully treated with the most advanced systems in symptom lowering and isolation methods. The big question is: how many people was contacted by the infected subject and how many of them have been already infected?
Now that the first case has been reported, what does this all mean for the rest of the country, and what types of precautions should Americans take? Two Stony Brook Medicine infectious disease experts explain.
“Procedures are in place and being followed at airports to identify other travelers as they leave affected countries or arrive here in the U.S., these include questionnaires and temperature screens,” says Saul Hymes, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital who specializes in Pediatric Infectious Disease. “We may see other imported cases like this from other travelers but all we can do is remain vigilant. In particular, doctors at local hospitals should remain aware that CDC guidance is to isolate anyone with a febrile illness traveling from affected countries.”
The patient in Dallas is believed to have had a handful of contacts with people after showing symptoms of the virus, and before being isolated, according to the CDC.
Dr. Hymes explains that Ebola is only transmitted by direct contact with secretions from an infected person. “Of concern would be contact with substances like vomit, stool, urine, blood, respiratory secretions, and you need direct contact with the fluid,” says Dr. Hymes. “If someone sneezes in your face that could transmit it. However, the much more common transmission is in people who process the dead bodies, or who care for the sick.”
The Ebola outbreak has been centered in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, though there have been concerns about international air travel and other factors — including the fact the symptoms might not appear until two to 21 days after one is infected — may contribute to its spread.