US searches for those who came in contact with Ebola patient

2014-10-02 11:17

Dallas – United States health officials have scoured the Dallas area for people – including schoolchildren – who came in contact with a Liberian man diagnosed with Ebola, as it emerged a hospital mix-up saw him initially turned away.

More people may have been exposed to the contagious man after he first sought treatment on September 25 because an apparent miscommunication among staff resulted in his release back into the community for several days, Texas hospital officials admitted.

He was seen vomiting on the ground outside an apartment complex as he was bundled into an ambulance, Reuters reported.

Ebola is spread through close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and can only be transmitted when a patient is showing symptoms such as fever, aches, bleeding, vomiting or diarrhoea.

The man – the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on US soil – flew from Liberia, the hardest-hit nation in West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak, and arrived in Texas September 20 to visit family. He fell ill on September 24.

He went to the hospital the next day but was sent home because the medical team “felt clinically it was a low-grade common viral disease”, said Mark Lester, executive vice-president of Texas Health Resources.

“He volunteered that he had travelled from Africa in response to the nurse operating the checklist and asking that question,” Lester added.

“Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full team.”

A hospital statement issued later said his initial symptoms on September 25 were “low-grade fever and abdominal pain”, and that “his condition did not warrant admission”.

The patient is currently in a serious but stable condition.

He came in contact with five schoolchildren before he returned by ambulance to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on September 28, and was placed in strict isolation.

The schools are close to Vickery Meadows, a largely immigrant neighbourhood where the Ebola victim lived with relatives.

“These children have been identified and they are being monitored and the disease cannot be transmitted before having any symptoms, Texas Governor Rick Perry said.

The incubation period for Ebola is between two and 21 days. Patients are not contagious until they start to have symptoms. Ebola can lead to massive bleeding and fatal organ failure.

A 10-member team of experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has landed in Texas to assist the investigation.

While health experts say the public should not panic medical personnel are on the lookout for more cases of Ebola on US soil.

Three crew members who worked in the ambulance that transported the patient have tested negative, but they will be monitored for 21 days, the City Of Dallas said.

As US officials scrambled to track down people, the worldwide death toll from Ebola jumped to 3 338 dead and 7 178 infected since the beginning of the year, the World Health Organisation said.

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