An unidentified healthcare worker who helped treat the Liberian man who died of Ebola last week in Texas has tested positive for the virus.
In a statement released to the media Sunday, the Texas Department of State Health Services said the worker has been in isolation since reporting a fever on Friday. While the positive results are only preliminary, if they are confirmed, it would mark the first case of the deadly disease actually spread through contact in the United States.
“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said in the statement. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”
The department is monitoring anyone who’d been in contact with the healthcare worker, the statement said.
The infection took place at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Liberian Thomas Duncan was treated before his death last week. His body was incinerated.
About 50 other people are thought to have had contact with Duncan. All are being monitored, the statement said.
Meanwhile, health screening began Saturday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for passengers arriving from west African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Screening is set to begin this week at four other airports.
But how much good that’s going to do is open to question.
Critics said such screenings would not have detected the Duncan case, for instance, because he arrived on a connecting flight from Europe, not west Africa.
“I think they offer some margin of, I don’t know, peace of mind for the public,” said Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, according to CNN.
Garrett has written a book about emerging diseases called “The Coming Plague.”
“I see this more as something to calm the nerves of the American people, the British people, the French people,” she said.
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