Two Patients in U.S. Undergoing Tests for Ebola Virus Exposure

Aug 20, 2014 12:43 pm ET

Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Blood samples from two patients at separate U.S. hospitals are being tested for Ebola as the worst outbreak of the deadly virus on record spreads across Africa. Health officials from both states said neither person is likely to have the disease.

Officials at the hospitals, in New Mexico and California, said yesterday that as a precaution they are sending the samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to rule out the presence of the virus.

The outbreak, the worst since the virus was first identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, has sickened 2,240 people, killing at least 1,229 through Aug. 16, in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and, most recently, Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization. The CDC has said Ebola poses no substantial risk to the U.S.

One patient is a 30-year-old woman in New Mexico who recently returned from Sierra Leone. She showed up at a local hospital complaining of a sore throat, headache, muscle aches and reported having a fever. The state health department said in a statement she had no known exposure to Ebola and isn’t considered a probable case.

Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center in Northern California said it also has a patient in isolation. Hospital officials didn’t provide details on the patient or how the person may have been exposed. The state health department said the patient was “low risk.”

Aid Workers

Concern that the virus might appear in the U.S. grew after two American aid workers who were treating victims in Africa contracted the disease and were evacuated to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both are recovering.

Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said a male patient who arrived at the emergency room with Ebola-like symptoms this month after traveling to West Africa tested negative for virus.

There is no known or approved cure for Ebola, which typically kills as many as 90 percent of its victims after causing bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth and rectum and a bloody full-body rash. It is spread through bodily fluids.

Health-care workers attending to suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola need to wear protective clothing including goggles, rubber boots, gloves and gowns to ensure that no part of their skin is exposed.