Some “school-aged” children have had contact with a patient now being treated for Ebola at a Dallas hospital, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Wednesday.
“Let me assure these children have been identified and they are being monitored,” Perry told a press conference at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
The governor stressed that the deadly disease is not airborne, cannot be transmitted before presenting symptoms, and is “substantially more difficult to contract than the common cold.”
“There are few places in the world better equipped to meet the challenge that is posed in this case,” said Perry. “Texas is one of only 13 states certified by the CDC to conduct diagnostic Ebola testing, and we have the health care professionals and the institutions that are second to none.”
Perry said he was confident the disease would be contained and that the system was “working as it should.”
This morning, the Dallis Independent School District (ISD) was made aware of the fact that five students attending four district schools may have been exposed to Ebola. The students are not presenting any symptoms, and there is nothing to suggest that the disease was spread to other students or staff members, Dallas ISD said in a press release. As a precautionary measure, the students have been advised to stay home from school.
An unidentified patient tested positive for Ebola at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed Tuesday, marking the first diagnosis of the deadly disease on American soil. A hospital spokesperson told NBC News Wednesday that the patient was in serious condition.
Officials in Texas said health care workers had tested negative for Ebola, and that there were no other suspected cases in the state.
Because Ebola spreads though contact with bodily fluids, unlike airborne diseases, health experts are confident it won’t spread in the U.S., which has a far more sophisticated medical infrastructure than that of West African nations, where the current Ebola epidemic has killed over 3,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO.)
“I have no doubt that we’ll stop this in its tracks in the U.S.,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said Tuesday during a news conference.
Still, health officials are taking great pains to closely monitor any person who may have come into contact with the Texas patient during the time he was contagious. That kind of surveillance has proved successful in Nigeria and Senegal, where no new infections have been reported since the beginning of September. No more than a “handful” of people in the U.S. are likely at risk, Frieden said.
Not much is known about the patient, other than that he is male and lives and works in Liberia, one of the countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Frieden said he was visiting family in the U.S., but did not confirm whether or not the patient was an American citizen. According to Reuters, the Liberian information ministry said that the man had not shown any signs of fever or other Ebola symptoms when he left Liberia on September 19. Six days after arriving in Texas, he sought treatment and was admitted to an isolation room at the hospital two days later. Some health experts have questioned the delay.
Speaking at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., last week, President Obama called the Ebola epidemic a “security threat” and pledged to lead a stronger international response. More than 3,000 military troops will join about 150 personnel from the Department of Defense and USAID already on the ground in Liberia, the Pentagon announced Tuesday, in a mission that could cost as much as $1 billion.