Local News

Duke Hospital monitoring patient for possible Ebola

Posted November 2, 2014 9:08 p.m. EST
Updated November 3, 2014 5:25 a.m. EST

— The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is monitoring a patient at Duke University Hospital in Durham who traveled from Liberia and has developed a fever.

State health officials said Sunday night that the patient departed Liberia and arrived Friday at Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport, had no symptoms upon arrival and had no known exposure to Ebola while in Liberia.

The patient, whose age and gender were not released, took a bus from New Jersey to Durham County, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies. He or she arrived in Person County on Saturday and developed a fever on Sunday.

"Keep in mind, this person did not have symptoms while traveling on the bus," Davies said. "Also, keep in mind, this person has not been diagnosed with any specific condition yet."

Experts say that Ebola is contagious only after the onset of symptoms and is spread through direct, unprotected contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. It is not spread through air, water, food or proximity.

Davies said the patient self-monitored and called the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the onset of fever. The CDC immediately called the state Division of Public Health.

The person was transferred in a specialized EMS vehicle – with staffers wearing protective gear – to Duke University Hospital “using the appropriate health and safety protocols,” officials said.

“It is important to note that the patient’s fever could indicate other illnesses,” they said in a statement. “The patient will be evaluated for possible causes of fever, including testing for Ebola.”

A blood sample will be taken to the State Laboratory of Public Health for testing, and the patient will be isolated in a secured unit at the hospital until results are completed.

Results are expected early Monday morning.

Davies said if the test is negative for Ebola, the person would be held in isolation for 72 hours while the test is repeated for confirmation.

The patient is also undergoing contact tracing as a precaution, but health officials believe the risk of potential exposure to others is "extremely low."

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said Sunday that Gov. Pat McCrory has been fully briefed and has been in touch with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about the patient.

She said her department is "committed to an open line of communication and will share with the public" any new information.

Wos stressed that the state has been preparing for potential Ebola cases and is ready.

"Today, this intensive preparation is being put to use," she said.