A Nepalese health worker inspects an arriving passenger with an infrared thermometer on Aug. 20 for signs of fever, one of the symptoms of Ebola, at a health desk at Nepal's only international airport, in Kathmandu. / Prakash Mathema, epa
In "an abundance of caution," a patient in California is being isolated in a Sacramento hospital, but public health officials said they think the person is at low risk for Ebola.
Health authorities would not identify the person's age, gender or where he or she had traveled in the West African countries that are seeing the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
The person is the only one in California at the moment who is considered to be at risk for having the virus; at least one person tested for the virus earlier this month in New York was shown not to have it.
To rule out Ebola, health authorities have sent a sample of the patient's blood to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Because of shipping time and high demand for testing, it will likely take another three days before test results are known, Gil Chavez, deputy director for the Center for Infectious Diseases and state epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health, said in a telephone news conference.
To determine whether patients are at risk for Ebola, the CDC uses three criteria: Were they in an affected country, did they have exposures in that country that could have put them at risk for contracting the virus, and do they have symptoms consistent with Ebola, which might include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and irregular bleeding.
"Taking all those criteria into account, we have determined this patient is low risk," said James Watt, chief of the Division of Communicable Disease Control at the Center for Infectious Diseases, who was also on the call.
Chavez and Watt would not detail how the California patient meets those criteria but said they showed the patient is at low risk.
More than 1,350 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria â?? over half the people who have fallen ill with the virus.
Chavez emphasized that even if the patient is found to have Ebola, the risk of transmission to others is very low. Ebola is passed only through contact with bodily fluids such as blood and feces - not through the air - and the virus dies quickly on surfaces, he said. Victims are only contagious when they show symptoms of the disease.
The patient was quickly isolated once healthcare officials at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Sacramento determined the person was possibly at risk. The patient's caregivers are protected with masks, gowns and other gear. The state Department of Public Health has started reaching out to people who came into contact with the patient. In case Ebola is confirmed, those contacts would be placed on close watch to make sure they do not come down with symptoms.
"That's what limits the spread and eventually breaks the cycle of transmission," Chavez said.
Read the original story: California patient at low risk for Ebola infection