The deadly Ebola virus has arrived in the United States. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that one unnamed patient at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas has been diagnosed with the virus. The news came a week after the agency reported that the ripping through swaths of West Africa could infect up to 1.4 million people by 2015.
At a press conference held in Atlanta this evening, CDC officials announced that the patient had traveled from Liberia on September 19, arriving in the United States on September 20. On September 24, the patient began to show signs of illness, and was admitted to a Texas hospital four days later. Today, lab specimens from the patient tested positive for Ebola.
The CDC is currently tracing and monitoring people the patient might have had any contact with while infected with Ebola, but the agency also noted that Ebola can only spread through close contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person who demonstrates fever and other symptoms. The patient only started getting sick once in the United States where he was staying with family, so there’s “zero risk” to others who shared the patient’s flight, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said. Frieden also noted that the patient must have had close contact with an infected person or someone who had died of the virus while overseas.
“The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this importation or this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country. It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual–a family member or other individuals–could develop Ebola in the following weeks,” Frieden said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”
In August, we reported on a model built by computer scientist Dirk Brockmann that predicted the relative likelihood of Ebola arriving at more than a thousand airports around the world. We still don’t know the airport in which the patient arrived, but for an example of the type of risk he considered, Brockmann calculated the relative odds that Ebola would arrive in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from Monrovia, Liberia to be 0.14%.