By now, most people are aware that the first Ebola case was diagnosed in the U.S. last week, in a person traveling from Liberia to Dallas, Texas. As such, many Americans have grown more concerned about the chances of an Ebola outbreak happening here at home.
In a blog post for CNN last Thursday, Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explained exactly why we can — and will — stop the disease in the United States, and outlined the "distinct differences in what will happen here":
The United States has a strong health care system and dedicated public health professionals -- all hard at work right now -- to make sure this case will not threaten the community at large, or the nation. A person who is sick from Ebola virus disease can be cared for in U.S. hospitals when the patient is isolated in a private room with a private bathroom and contact with them is highly controlled. Every health care worker must meticulously follow every single infection control protection we recommend.
Public health officials, meanwhile, are also identifying people who have had close personal contact with the newly diagnosed patient and will follow up with them for 21 days, the longest known incubation period for Ebola. If they develop any signs of the disease, those people will be isolated, tested and cared for.
"CDC has been preparing for this day," Dr. Frieden said, "working around the clock with local and state health departments to enhance surveillance and laboratory testing capacity, provide recommendations for health care infection control and other measures to prevent disease spread, and deliver guidance and tools for health departments to conduct public health investigations."
— Dr. Tom Frieden
Clinicians have been key to our safety thus far, by:
In fact, since the start of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, CDC has consulted with local and state health departments regarding almost 100 cases where travelers from West Africa showed symptoms that were potentially caused by Ebola. Fourteen of those cases were "considered to be truly at risk," and after testing specimens from 13 of those cases, Ebola was ruled out in all 13 cases.
While Dr. Frieden didn't promise that the Dallas case would be the last case of Ebola in the U.S., he emphasized that "the right steps are being taken," and reiterated his confidence that "we will stop Ebola in its tracks here in the United States."
Dr. Frieden also made it clear that stopping the spread of Ebola in West Africa is "the only way to truly and completely protect the health security of America and the world" — which President Obama echoed in a meeting with senior staff at the White House yesterday.