ATLANTA (REUTERS/AFP) - The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States initially sought treatment six days after arriving in the country, potentially exposing a "handful" of family members and others to the virus, a top U.S. health official said on Tuesday.
Noting that it was the first case of Ebola diagnosed outside Africa, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said he had no doubt that local and federal health authorities could contain the potential spread of the deadly virus in the country.
"It is certainly possible someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks," Frieden told a press conference. "I have no doubt we will stop this in its tracks in the United States."
But he noted: "This is the first patient diagnosed outside of Africa to our knowledge."
The patient was hospitalised at a Dallas hospital on Sunday after travelling from Liberia, one of the countries hit hardest by the worst Ebola outbreak on record.
The possible use of experimental Ebola treatments on the patient is being discussed, he added.
The White House said that U.S. President Barack Obama had been briefed about the case by Frieden.
Frieden said the man had been in contact with only a small number of people since returning to the U.S. on Sept 20, and that there people on the same flight with him from Africa were at little risk.
He said a team of CDC officials was enroute to Dallas and would observe anyone who had contact with the man for 21 days. Any of them who developed symptoms of Ebola would be isolated immediately, he said.