DALLAS — Health officials are closely monitoring a possible second Ebola patient who had close contact with the first person to be diagnosed in the U.S., the director of Dallas County’s health department said Wednesday.
All who have been in close contact with the man diagnosed are being monitored as a precaution, said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.
“Let me be real frank to the Dallas County residents: The fact that we have one confirmed case, there may be another case that is a close associate with this particular patient,” he said. “So this is real. There should be a concern, but it’s contained to the specific family members and close friends at this moment.”
The director continued to assure residents that the public isn’t at risk because health officials have the virus contained.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas was the first person to be diagnosed in the United States with the Ebola virus.
The patient left Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in Dallas the following day. On Sept. 26, he sought treatment at the hospital after becoming ill but was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics. Two days later, he was admitted with more critical symptoms, after requiring an ambulance ride to the hospital.
The patient was in contact with several children before he was hospitalized, health officials here said.
Each of those children have been kept home from school and are under precautionary monitoring, Thompson said.
The Dallas County school district officials said they are working closely with health officials.
“They are consulting with the county on any additional action that may need to be taken during the course of investigation,” district spokesman Jon Dahlander said in a statement. “This is part of routine emergency operations during a health incident in the county. This is same protocol taken during things like flu and tuberculosis cases.”
More than a half a dozen CDC employees arrived in Dallas after news of the diagnosis broke. The CDC and Dallas County are working together in what they call a contact investigation.
Anyone who has had contact with the patient, including emergency room staff, will be under health officials’ observation for 21 days. If any of those being monitored show symptoms, they’ll be placed in isolation.
The three paramedics who transported the patient in Dallas are temporarily off duty and among those under observation.
Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, said the 10,000-strong Liberian population in North Texas is skeptical of the CDC’s assurances because Ebola has ravaged their country.
“We’ve been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings,” Gaye said at a community meeting Tuesday. Large get-togethers are a prominent part of Liberian culture.
Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus. The disease is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s health director, David Lakey, will have a noon CT press conference at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital here to address the diagnosis.