Ebola Comes to the U.S.—and the CDC Is Ready for It

   < < Go Back

By John Tozzi,

from Bloomberg BusinessWeek,

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the U.S. A patient in Dallas who arrived from Liberia on Sept. 20 began to develop symptoms four days later. He was hospitalized and placed in isolation on Sept. 28. Two separate lab tests confirmed a diagnosis of Ebola on Sept. 30, CDC officials said.

Critics have blamed American bureaucracy for slowing research into experimental therapies that may help treat the virus. Confronting the first infection diagnosed on U.S. shores, American bureaucracy is an asset rather than a liability. The country’s public health infrastructure is well equipped to detect, isolate, and track infections to keep them from spreading out of control. It’s precisely the kind of robust system missing in West African countries struggling to contain the outbreak. “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,” Friedan said on Tuesday evening.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, contaminated objects such as syringes, or infected animals, according to the CDC. It’s not spread through the air. Patients become contagious only after they become ill. Symptoms include a sudden fever, weakness, muscle pain, and sore throat, according to the World Health Organization. That onset happens anywhere from 2 to 21 days after they’re infected, though a typical incubation period is 8 to 10 days, Frieden said.

A team of CDC workers is en route to Dallas. They’ll work with local authorities to identify people potentially exposed, monitor them for symptoms, isolate those who get sick, and repeat the process if new cases arise.

The facilities needed to isolate patients for Ebola are common at U.S. hospitals. Five earlier cases of viral hemorrhagic fevers—the same family of infections like Ebola and Marburg virus—have been successfully stopped at U.S. hospitals in the past decade, Frieden said. And the awareness of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has American hospitals on high alert for imported cases.

“Ironically enough, in the week before this patient presented, we had a meeting with all the stakeholders who might be involved in the care of such a patient,” said Edward Goodman, a hospital epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian.

More From Bloomberg BusinessWeek: