This week the CDC confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the US. The person had traveled from Liberia to Dallas. The patient didn’t have symptoms when he left Liberia, but developed them 5 days after arriving in Dallas on September 20 – meaning that folks on the plane have no risk of developing Ebola (Ebola isn’t infectious until symptoms develop).
The follow-up work this week in Texas will include thorough infection control in the hospital treating the patient, contacting people exposed to the patient after his arrival in Texas (so far it looks like a dozen or so people), monitoring those people for 21 days (the incubation period), isolating contacts if they develop symptoms, getting laboratory confirmation of suspect cases, and intensive contact tracing of any new cases. The cycle then repeats itself if necessary.
For as long as the outbreak continues in West Africa, there remains a chance that somebody exposed to Ebola in West Africa may travel to Arizona and be diagnosed with the disease here. For that reason, we’ll be continuing to: 1) conduct enhanced surveillance for any potential cases with a travel history to West Africa (intensive case identification); 2) distribute recommendations for healthcare infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread should a case be identified through our Health Alert Network; and 3) assist our county health departments so they can conduct rapid case investigations in the event that we end up with a case. All of these interventions have already been conducted – but we’ll continue to monitor and reinforce them as needed over time.