Latest Infectious Disease News
SATURDAY, Oct. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- No new cases of Ebola have developed among more than four dozen people possibly exposed to the deadly virus in Dallas, public health officials said Saturday.
Health workers continue to observe "nine individuals who we're pretty sure are definite contacts" with Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, who is in intensive care for Ebola infection, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a midday news briefing.
The nine people considered at greater risk include Duncan's family members and some health care workers, he said.
Officials also are monitoring about 40 other people who might have been exposed to Ebola, either through contact with Duncan or by traveling later in the ambulance that took him to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, Frieden said.
"Because we can't be certain they didn't have contact, we will be monitoring them as well," Frieden said.
There's a possibility that some of the people who have been in close contact with Duncan will develop Ebola, which can take as long as 21 days to appear, public officials have said.
However, due to the monitoring now under way, officials have said that further spread of the virus that has been sweeping through several West African nations is unlikely in the Dallas area.
Duncan's condition was described as critical Saturday by hospital officials, who had previously labeled his condition as serious, the Associated Press reported.
Officials also announced Saturday that an agreement has been reached for the disposal of Ebola-tainted medical waste, which due to a regulatory snafu has been a problem for several U.S. hospitals treating Ebola patients.
"We now have a process that all have agreed upon, throughout not just the government but also the private companies that is workable," Frieden said. "That should not be an issue going forward."
Ebola biohazard waste that is accumulating at Texas Health Presbyterian will be carted away early next week, said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
"The company has gotten the approval for the transportation, but is waiting until after the weekend for the transport," Lakey said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation considers Ebola a life-threatening "Category A" infectious agent that cannot be handled like normal medical waste. The DOT requires a special permit for hauling away waste exposed to the virus.
The DOT announced in a press release that it has issued a special permit that will allow waste handling company Stericycle Inc., of Lake Forest, Ill., to transport biohazard material from any location in Texas, including hospitals and the home in which Duncan had been staying.
The permit requires Stericycle to store the waste in layers of packaging and apply a CDC-authorized disinfectant to the inner packaging.
Frieden said that hospitals with large enough sterilization or incineration facilities will be asked to process Ebola biohazard waste prior to transport. Hospitals without such facilities will now be able to get their waste hauled away.
Both Texas Health Presbyterian and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta -- which has treated three American aid workers infected with Ebola in West Africa -- have had problems removing the biohazard waste that crops up with treatment of Ebola victims.
Officials also announced that the people in the Dallas apartment where Duncan had been staying before coming down with symptoms of Ebola -- Duncan's partner, Louise Troh, her son and two nephews in their 20s -- have been moved to a new temporary home.
Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins said that he drove them to the new home himself, describing them as "brave, good people who are concerned about the public health and obviously concerned about their own health."
Duncan entered the United States on Sept. 19 from Liberia -- one of the West Africa Ebola hot spots -- apparently healthy and without any symptoms of infection. He first developed Ebola symptoms Sept. 24 and sought care two days later at Texas Health Presbyterian. But he was mistakenly released from the hospital even though an emergency room doctor had access to Duncan's recent travel history from Liberia, the AP reported Saturday.
Duncan was taken back to Texas Health Presbyterian on Sept. 28 after his condition worsened.
Public health officials have performed assessments of 114 people who could have been exposed to Ebola due to Duncan, and have narrowed the list to about 50 people who require continued observation, Frieden said Saturday.
Frieden has said repeatedly that Ebola is not easily transmitted -- to become infected a person must come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of a person who is suffering symptoms. Those symptoms include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.
In a related matter, President Barack Obama will meet with national security advisers on Monday to discuss the Ebola outbreak and the administration's response, the AP reported.
As many as 4,000 U.S. troops could be deployed to West Africa to combat future spread of the virus. Troops have been slowly building up in the affected nations, including advance forces who are directing the deployment to places of need.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the worst outbreak ever of the disease. So far, an estimated 7,500 people have become infected and nearly 3,431 people have died in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.
U.S. health officials have warned that the epidemic could strike as many as 1.4 million people by mid-January unless the global community mounts a rapid and concerted response to the crisis.
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SOURCES: Oct. 4, 2014, news briefing with Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, David Lakey, M.D., commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services, and Clay Lewis Jenkins, Judge, Dallas County, Texas; Associated Press