US health officials say 50 people being observed for Ebola; 10 high-risk

A Red Cross worker delivering bedding materials to an apartment unit at The Ivy Apartments, where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus was staying in Dallas, Texas Oct 2, 2014. Texas health officials were monitoring 50 people for Ebola exposure
A Red Cross worker delivering bedding materials to an apartment unit at The Ivy Apartments, where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus was staying in Dallas, Texas Oct 2, 2014. Texas health officials were monitoring 50 people for Ebola exposure on Friday, 10 of whom are at high risk of the disease after close contact with the first diagnosed US patient. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

CHICAGO (REUTERS) - Texas health officials were monitoring 50 people for Ebola exposure Friday, 10 of whom are at high risk of the disease after close contact with the first diagnosed US patient.

The 50 were narrowed down from an initial pool of 100 people thought to have come into contact with the sick man.

They are being checked for fever twice daily, and are currently “doing well,” said David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“Most of these individuals are low risk. There are about 10 individuals that are at high risk, so we are watching those individuals very carefully.”

The people are health-care workers and those who came in close contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who travelled from Liberia to Texas in late September and was announced on Tuesday as the first diagnosed US case of Ebola.

The 50 people who came in contact with him will be followed for 21 days to see if they develop symptoms such as fever, aches, vomiting or diarrhea, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“This does not imply that we have a high level of concern for most of these people,” the head of CDC’s national infectious diseases unit, Beth Bell, told reporters.

Duncan’s girlfriend and three members of her family have meanwhile been ordered to stay inside in a Dallas apartment under police guard.

A hazardous materials team arrived Friday to remove the sheets and towels Duncan used while he was sick, according to pictures posted online by the Dallas City Hall.

A cleanup team was turned away on Thursday over permit issues, said Clay Lewis Jenkins, a Dallas County judge.

“I went inside the apartment with two CDC epidemiologists last night to apologise to the family for the delay in getting those removed,” Jenkins said.

CDC officials continued to monitor the health of the four people in the apartment, but Duncan’s girlfriend, Louise, complained of the quarantine.

“They did not bring food yet,” Louise told CNN.

“I’m just hanging in there, depending on God to save our lives.”

Louise said she cleaned the apartment with bleach after Duncan’s Ebola diagnosis and, when asked if she came into contact with Duncan’s fluids, she said “not (that) I know of.”

The family has been ordered to stay in the apartment until Oct 19, the end of the incubation period.

Meanwhile, concerns mounted elsewhere in the United States about the potential spread of Ebola, which has already killed 3,338 people in West Africa.

A patient with Ebola-like symptoms who recently traveled to Nigeria was hospitalised at Howard University in Washington.

“In an abundance of caution, we have activated the appropriate infection control protocols, including isolating the patient,” hospital spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton told AFP.

A 33-year-old American cameraman for NBC News was diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia on Thursday and was said to be returning to the United States for treatment.

The State Department has helped facilitate the return home of a total of five Americans from West Africa for Ebola treatment since the outbreak began earlier this year, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

They include the cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo; two Christian missionary doctors, Kent Brantly and Rick Sacra; another missionary worker Nancy Writebol; and an unnamed American who was evacuated from Sierra Leone for treatment earlier this month.

Another American named Patrick Sawyer was also infected. A dual US-Liberian citizen, he became ill while travelling on a plane from Liberia to Nigeria in July and later died of Ebola. Sawyer is believed to have infected others in Nigeria, where as many as eight people have died from Ebola.

CDC chief Tom Frieden is scheduled to testify before lawmakers about the Ebola response on Oct 16.