DALLAS (REUTERS) -The first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States is “fighting for his life,” a top US health official said on Sunday, a day after the man’s condition worsened from serious to critical.
“The man in Dallas, who is fighting for his life, is the only patient to develop Ebola in the United States,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Frieden said that in the affected parts of West Africa, where Ebola has killed more than 3,400 people since March, the disease is spreading so rapidly it is difficult for health officials to keep up. But he said he was confident that the virus would not spread widely in the United States.
The case of Thomas Eric Duncan, who arrived in Dallas from Liberia two weeks ago, has heightened concerns that the worst Ebola epidemic on record could spread from West Africa.
The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Duncan was being treated, said Saturday that he was in critical condition, a worsening from "serious condition" which he was said to be in during the previous two days. The hospital declined to elaborate.
Meanwhile one of the Americans infected while working in West Africa, Dr Richard Sacra, was in isolation in Worcester, Massachusetts, after being admitted Saturday for what appeared to be a respiratory infection.
Sacra was treated successfully for Ebola in Nebraska and discharged on Sept. 25. He was stable and being watched for signs of a relapse of the disease at University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, the Boston Globe reported.
Frieden said hospitals nationwide have become more vigilant in checking incoming patients for potential risks, particularly among those travelling recently from West Africa.
The CDC has narrowed the number of individuals in Dallas at greatest risk of infection from Duncan, identifying nine people who had direct contact with him.
Another 40 were being monitored as potential contacts, out of a group of 114 people initially evaluated for exposure risks, though none from either group has shown symptoms, Frieden said.
Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhea, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva.
A hospital patient in Sarasota, Florida, was being monitored and treated for possible symptoms in isolation as a precaution because he, too, had travelled recently to West Africa, Governor Rick Scott said on Saturday.
But a patient admitted under similar circumstances to Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC, after a recent trip to Nigeria was ruled out as an Ebola victim earlier in the day.
Duncan was sent home by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after his first visit to the emergency room, despite telling a nurse there that he had just been to Liberia.