Well, this should give everyone the warm fuzzies, no? The CDC confirmed this afternoon that a traveler from Liberia has the Ebola virus — and that it didn’t become symptomatic for seven days after his arrival. The EMS technicians who transported him to the Dallas hospital are now in isolation while the CDC tries to trace back the patient’s steps to see how many other people may have picked up the virus:
Months after the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history began ravaging West African countries, a man who flew from Liberia to Dallas became the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States.
Health officials stressed that they are confident they can control this situation and keep the virus from spreading in the U.S.
“We’re stopping it in its tracks in this country,” Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, declared during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The man who is infected, who was not identified, left Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in the U.S. the following day to visit family members. Health officials are working to identify everyone who may have been exposed to this man. Frieden said this covered just a “handful” of people, a group that will be watched for three weeks to see if any symptoms emerge.
“The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this importation, or this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country,” Frieden said. “It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks. But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”
Normally, I’d feel pretty confident in that statement … if we hadn’t kept hearing how nearly-impossible it was to have it pop up here in the first place. Supposedly the virus moved fast enough to produce symptoms, and that screeners in those areas afflicted by Ebola knew what to look for in order to keep infected people from getting on planes to the US. Besides, thanks to the Secret Service scandal and Barack Obama’s claim that the intelligence community blew it on ISIS, it’s not exactly the week for confidence in our bureaucratic overlords.
Doctors at the Texas Health Presbyterian insisted that they could handle the task:
Zachary Thompson, the director of the Dallas County Health & Human Services, said Tuesday morning the Center for Disease Control was mobilizing as if the patient tested positive for the virus.
Thompson said Tuesday morning Dallas County is ready to care for the patient.
“This is not Africa,” Thompson said. “We have a great infrastructure to deal with an outbreak.”
Hopefully, they will be able to keep this from spreading. With at least a seven-day incubation period, it might not be easy to track down all of the personal contact the patient had, but they’re working on it. In the meantime, we can do best by watching the situation carefully and not panicking over a single case. But perhaps we ought to rethink the easy travel between the US and the areas where Ebola is spreading rapidly.