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Texas Health Care Worker Tests Positive for Ebola in Preliminary Check
Worker cared for Liberian man who died of virus in Dallas hospital last week
By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Oct. 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A health care worker who helped treat the Liberian man who died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital last week has tested positive for the virus, Texas health officials reported early Sunday morning.

If confirmed, this would be the first case of Ebola infection on American soil. The Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, contracted Ebola in his home country before flying to Dallas in September to see relatives and friends.

"We knew a second case could be a reality, and we've been preparing for this possibility," Dr. David Lakey, the Texas health commissioner, said in a statement. "We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread."

The health care worker, who has not been identified, was isolated and tested Friday night after reporting a low grade fever. Health officials are working to identify anyone who might have had contact with the health care worker, the statement said.

The positive result came late Saturday, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will conduct further tests to confirm the diagnosis, according to the statement. However, hospital officials said during a Sunday morning news conference that they are "unfortunately" confident that the diagnosis will be confirmed.

During the news conference, officials said the worker was exposed to Duncan during his second visit to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, and wore protective gear.

Duncan had entered the United States from Liberia on Sept. 20, apparently healthy and without symptoms of Ebola, the often fatal disease that has been sweeping through three West African nations since the spring. He first developed symptoms Sept. 24 and sought care two days later at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, but was released from the hospital. He was taken back to the hospital on Sept. 28 after his condition worsened.

Public health workers have been monitoring 10 people confirmed to have had contact with Duncan after he fell ill with Ebola and became contagious, as well as 38 other suspected contacts. The 10 include several members of Duncan's family living in Dallas and the ambulance crew that transported him to the hospital, officials said.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have begun entry screening for "general overt signs of illnesses" at five airports for passengers arriving from the West African nations hit hard by the Ebola epidemic: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The screenings began Saturday at Kennedy International Airport in New York City. They will begin this week at four other airports -- Washington Dulles International, O'Hare International in Chicago, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey.

According to the CDC, if travelers have a fever or other Ebola symptoms or a health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC health officer. If health risks are detected, travelers "will be referred to the appropriate public health authority," the agency said in a news release.

"We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the worst outbreak ever of the disease. So far, an estimated 8,000 people have become infected and an estimated 3,880 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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