U.S. CDC fields scores of possible Ebola case inquiries, no new infections

DALLAS (Reuters) – U.S. health officials have fielded inquiries about as many as 100 potential cases of Ebola since the first patient with the deadly virus was identified in the United States, but no new infections have been found, a senior health official said on Saturday.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said news of the Ebola patient in Dallas had alerted hospitals nationwide to check incoming patients for potential risks, particularly those who had recently travelled from the centre of the outbreak in West Africa.

The CDC has identified nine people who have had contact with the Dallas patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, and therefore may have been exposed to the virus, and an additional 40 are being monitored as potential contacts. None have shown symptoms, Frieden said.

The first Ebola diagnosis in the United States “has really increased attention to what health workers need to do to be alert and make sure a travel history is taken,” Frieden told a news conference.

Frieden added that many of the inquiries involved people who had not travelled from West Africa, but that the agency preferred healthcare workers to cast as wide a net as possible.

Duncan, now being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, was sent home after his first visit to the emergency room, despite telling a nurse there that he had just been to Liberia.

The governments of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are struggling to contain the worst outbreak on record of the deadly hemorrhagic fever.

The World Health Organization on Friday updated its death toll to at least 3,439 out of 7,492 suspected, probable or confirmed cases.

On Friday, officials said the number of people placed under isolation in Dallas after possible exposure to Duncan had grown to at least 10, including four members of a family moved to an undisclosed house for close monitoring.

Initially, 100 people had been feared to have had direct or indirect contact. All those in isolation were cooperating with public health authorities by staying in quarantine voluntarily, according to Dallas city and county officials.

“There’s no one under orders. There’s no one that we perceive that needs to be under orders,” Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County’s top elected official, told a news conference late on Friday.

Separately, five public school children who had possibly been exposed to the Ebola patient had been kept home from class in recent days while being monitored as a precaution, though none had shown any symptoms, said Mike Miles, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District.

Authorities did not identify the individuals placed in isolation but said they included the four members of a single family whose apartment Duncan was staying in when he fell ill after travelling to Dallas from Liberia on Sept. 19.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley in Atlanta, Michele Gershberg in New York, and John Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas. Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

U.S. CDC fields scores of possible Ebola case inquiries, no new infections