An employee of a Dallas hospital has tested positive for the Ebola virus, NBC News reports.
The employee works for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where an Ebola patient from Liberia died earlier this week.
The sick employee is in stable condition. He or she reportedly helped care for the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted the disease in Liberia but first started showing symptoms in the US. Duncan was the first Ebola case to be diagnosed in the US.
The worker was “following full [Centres for Disease Control and Prevention] procedures,” when he or she was infected with Ebola, said Dan Varga, chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources. “We’re very concerned.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services issued this statement:
A health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for the Ebola patient hospitalized there has tested positive for Ebola in a preliminary test at the state public health laboratory in Austin. Confirmatory testing will be conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The health care worker reported a low grade fever Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing. The preliminary test result was received late Saturday.
“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”
Health officials have interviewed the patient and are identifying any contacts or potential exposures. People who had contact with the health care worker after symptoms emerged will be monitored based on the nature of their interactions and the potential they were exposed to the virus.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person or exposure to contaminated objects such as needles. People are not contagious before symptoms such as fever develop.
More than 4,000 people have died in what’s been the worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen. Ebola is mostly concentrated to West Africa, where more than 8,000 people have contracted the disease.
The CDC is currently following a procedure called contact tracing to limit Ebola’s spread in the US. This procedure requires investigators to track down anyone who could become ill with the disease. Investigators first locate everyone who has touched or been in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, then they monitor all of those contacts for as long as it takes the disease to show symptoms.
Ebola’s death rate is about 70%. The disease begins with flu-like symptoms and in many cases escalates to internal and external bleeding and organ failure.
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