Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- A man who appeared at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York with early symptoms of the Ebola virus after returning from West Africa is “unlikely” to have the deadly disease, New York health officials said.
Still, blood samples from the patient are being tested “for common causes of illness, and to definitively exclude Ebola,” according to a statement released yesterday by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The samples were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for testing that may take 24 hours to 48 hours, the hospital said. The patient, who had a high fever and gastrointestinal symptoms, was placed in isolation within seven minutes of walking into the emergency room yesterday morning, according to David Reich, the hospital’s president.
“Odds are this is not Ebola,” Jeremy Boal, Mount Sinai’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference.
Reich said Mount Sinai has reached out to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which is currently caring for one of two Americans infected in West Africa, to discuss treatment protocols. Mount Sinai has the ability to handle the treatment without transferring the patient, he said.
The Mount Sinai patient is now in “good condition,” according to Reich. New Yorkers, including emergency room workers and patients, shouldn’t be worried about contracting the virus, which isn’t spread through casual contact, he said.
Ebola, spread through direct contact with body fluids such as blood and urine, has infected 1,603 people in West Africa, killing 887, according to the World Health Organization. The disease, first reported in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, can cause bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose. An American doctor infected with Ebola in Liberia is now being treated in Atlanta, and a second infected American aid worker is set to be flown to that city today.
During this outbreak in West Africa, the CDC tested about six blood samples of suspected Ebola cases in the U.S., and none have turned up positive, said Barbara Reynolds, an agency spokeswoman.
In Washington, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said there are no plans “at this point” to halt flights coming from West Africa.
Passengers on flights from those countries are screened before boarding and there is additional screening when they arrive in the U.S., he said yesterday, adding the CDC has helped train Customs and Border Patrol officers to identify symptoms.
“It’s important for the public to understand that the reason that it’s important to identify the symptoms is you’re not contagious unless you exhibit the symptoms,” Earnest said.
--With assistance from Roger Runningen in Washington and Marie French in New York.