Texas health officials narrow list of Ebola contacts

Texas health authorities overseeing an Ebola investigation
have narrowed the list of people they’re following down to
50, after earlier interviewing 100 contacts of a man infected
with the deadly virus.
Health workers will contact each of those 50 people daily.
Only about 10 are considered to be at higher risk for Ebola,
either because they had very close contact with the patient
or because they handled his blood in the hospital, said
David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of
State Health Services.
So far, none of those contacts is sick, he said.
“All those individuals are doing well,” Lakey said at a press
conference Friday. While it’s unlikely that all 50 of those
people have been infected with Ebola, Lakey said health
officials are “casting a broad net” to avoid missing anyone.
Hospital or emergency workers who had a higher-risk
exposure have been asked not to to travel. They will be
furloughed with pay for 21 days, said Clay Lewis Jenkins, a
judge in Dallas County, Texas leading the emergency
response there.
No other patients were exposed while the Ebola patient, a
Liberian man named Thomas Eric Duncan, was at Texas
Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Duncan is said to be in
serious but stable condition and is in isolated.
Ten of Duncan’s higher-risk contacts will have their
temperatures taken twice a day during the 21-day
observation period, to make sure they don’t have a fever or
other early symptoms of Ebola. They will be asked to take
their own temperature once a day, and will also be visited
once a day by public health workers, who will also take
their temperatures, Jenkins said. Anyone who develops a
fever will be tested for Ebola and isolated.
The 40 lower-risk contacts have no travel or work
restrictions, Jenkins said.
There are no approved treatments or vaccines for Ebola,
although two vaccines are currently being tested, and two
experimental therapies have shown great promise.
Although 70% of Ebola patients in West Africa have died of
their infections, the three previous patients treated in
American hospitals all have survived. Doctors can’t say if
these three patients — who had all worked in a Liberian
hospital with or near Ebola patients — were cured because
of experimental treatments or because of good supportive
care, which includes maintaining their blood pressure and
hydration.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention have not revealed whether Duncan will receive
an experimental therapy or whether he has even asked for
it.
The CDC’s Beth Bell said it’s possible that additional
patients will be diagnosed with Ebola, either because they
had close contact with Duncan or because they have flown
here from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, where the
disease is still spreading rapidly.
“The best way to protect Americans and the rest of the
world is to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” said
Bell, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and
Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

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