First Case of Ebola Diagnosed Outside West Africa — Quarantine In Place

A person from Liberia flew to Texas to visit family and became ill after arrival. He went to the hospital but was sent home. Two days later, his illness worsened and when he returned to the hospital, Ebola infection was suspected. The patient was immediately placed in complete isolation to prevent any spread of the disease within the hospital setting. This is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola outside the Ebola affected countries in West Africa.

During his travels, he did not have any symptoms and, as a result, could not transmit the disease to fellow passengers or to other people he contacted while in route. Ebola virus is not transmitted until symptoms develop after the incubation period that can last up to 21 days. Even then, when symptoms start, it is not transmitted through the air. Close contact with a person’s sweat, blood, tears, vomit or diarrhoea is required to become infected.

Prior to his hospitalization, and while he was symptomatic, he came into close contact with about 12 to 18 people. Immediate family contacts have been placed in quarantine in their home. To be cautious, about up to 100 people have been contacted and a handful are being monitored. So far, none of those thought to have had contact with the patient were showing symptoms of Ebola.

With the on-going epidemic of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, it was inevitable that a person who was incubating the virus would travel to another country and become ill.

In fact, dozens of people have been checked for the virus on arrival at airports in many different countries. With the exception of the case in Texas, all tests have been negative so far. Some of the travellers were found to have malaria, a common infection in these countries.

In highly developed countries with sophisticated infection control procedures in their hospitals, there is a very low risk of any spread beyond perhaps a couple of close contacts of the initial case. So, there is little threat to the local population in Dallas or elsewhere.

The World Health Organization has cautioned all countries to be vigilant and to initiate isolation and quarantine procedures as appropriate.