A U.S. physician who was exposed to Ebola while treating patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrived in the United States today and was taken to a secure area at the Nebraska Medical Center.
The physician, who isn’t exhibiting symptoms of the deadly virus, was privately transported to the medical center in Omaha, Neb., on Saturday afternoon, officials there confirmed. Ebola, which can spread through direct contact, can incubate for three weeks before an infected person begins showing symptoms.
The individual, whose identity is being withheld due to privacy concerns, will be kept under observation in a secure area for up to two weeks and transferred to a special biocontainment unit if symptoms develop. The center, which is partnered with the University of Nebraska, has previously treated Ebola patients.
“This person may have been exposed to the virus but is not ill and is not contagious,” said Ted Cieslak, an infectious diseases specialist at the medical center. “Should any symptoms develop, the Nebraska Medicine/UNMC team is among the most qualified in the world to deal with them.”
University officials said that the physician was transported by private plane and car.
“The individual was moved safely and securely,” said a spokesperson for the State Department, which arranged the physician’s travel. “The individual is isolated and under observation at a medical facility per standard medical protocol.”
The second largest Ebola outbreak on record is currently raging in the DRC, with more than 350 deaths so far. The World Health Organization has determined the outbreak does not pose a major international threat.
International aid organizations are warning that the DRC’s worsening political situation — with protests and attacks on aid workers — will hinder efforts to contain the outbreak. The International Rescue Committee on Saturday temporarily suspended its Ebola response efforts.
More than 11,000 people died from an Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that began in 2014 and eventually spread to the United States — the largest outbreak ever recorded.
Before he ran for office, President Donald Trump opposed bringing Ebola patients to the United States, issuing repeated warnings while patients were en route during the 2014 outbreak. The Trump administration this May sought to cut $252 million in Ebola funding but reversed course after complaints from public health groups and Democrats.
Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.