Ebola has arrived in America

Source: NY Times

Atlanta (CNN) — A patient being treated at a Dallas hospital is the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, health officials announced Tuesday.

The unidentified man left Liberia on September 19 and arrived in the United States on September 20, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At that time, the individual did not have symptoms. “But four or five days later,” he began to exhibit them, Frieden said. The individual was hospitalized and isolated Sunday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Source: CNN

I can’t really say that I am surprised at this diagnosis as I cautiously speculated on this very thing months ago.  I am surprised, however, that it took this long for a case to occur here.  It only took the right circumstances to fall in line, and it appears that is the case.

With the incubation period, it’s possible for someone to contract the virus in a country currently having an outbreak and travel with no symptoms of the sickness at all.  If the person isn’t showing any signs, there is no way to know whether or not the virus is fighting with their immune system.

Listening to the news, I heard all kinds of jabber.  Some journalists were questioning cutting off flights from West Africa to try to fight the virus.  That’s like trying to close your screen door to avoid the effects of an impending tornado.  When a person can board a flight from West Africa, as this gentleman did, and arrive from a non-outbreak country, how does one know whether to actively screen him for the sickness?  Cutting off direct flights does not eliminate the multiple connection routes to arrive on American soil.

We’ve been told that the CDC has given hospitals a check sheet to follow to aid in the detection and isolation of anyone suspected of being sick.  That plan doesn’t work if hospitals don’t follow it, and this seems to be the case here.  That is my one major concern about anyone becoming sick after arriving in America.

This guy went to the hospital with symptoms, and he was given antibiotics and sent home.  Even after informing them of his travel, a lack of communication led to him being allowed to be in close contact with others while he was contagious.

I hope the guy recovers quickly.  I’m also hoping that medical authorities have found all that were in contact with him so they can be monitored as well.  I’ve always felt that we had the medical infrastructure to deal with such an issue without it becoming widespread.

This isn’t the time to gin up unnecessary fear.  However, first responders and people in the travel industry should step up their vigilance to ensure that anyone that is sick can get the necessary care without exposing others to this virus.

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4 thoughts on “Ebola has arrived in America

  1. I have a cousin who lives in Dallas. It’s having the hospital send him home the first time that makes her crazy.

    I see her point. It’s hard to be confident you’re never gonna get any on ya if there are Ebola patients walking around town. I’ve seen people vomit in public before.

    It would be nice to think hospitals would be proactive about admitting people with suspicious travel histories, but I think they’d have to be guaranteed an insurance payment or a government subsidy before they’d be willing to do that.

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    • “It would be nice to think hospitals would be proactive about admitting people with suspicious travel histories”

      At work, that’s what I refer to as trying to apply logic in a logic-free environment. 🙂

      Until there’s a vaccine or preventative treatment, our only course of action is to be very quick and thorough in our reaction to cases. Quickly quarantining anyone who may have been exposed is the best method to avoid spreading Ebola. Sending a sick person home with antibiotics won’t suffice, especially considering antibiotics have no effect on viruses.

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  2. I think we all knew this was going to happen, sooner or later. It’s pretty much assured in a world of global travel.

    This does bring up a valid point about immigration, even though it may not apply in this particular case (I have no idea of the patient’s background). One of the reasons for immigration laws to begin with was to make sure people immigrating were healthy and not bringing in diseases (as far back as the 1800’s). I never hear either side, pro or con, talking about this side of it. I do know that in my area, TB cases have made a comeback in the last 20 or so years, after having been almost eradicated. Still not an epidemic by any means, or even common, but it’s something to think about.

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    • You raise a serious point on immigration laws. It used to be that having HIV was a ground of inadmissibility, but that has now changed. There are grounds of inadmissibility that apply for public health reasons, but where there is a ground of inadmissibility in the law, there also exists a waiver for that ground.

      I’m not overly joyed at the response in Dallas at this point. I see the media pointing fingers at immigration at the airport, but there is nothing that can be done at the point of entry if the person is not already sick. There’s not a test that will show a person has the virus before they become symptomatic.

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