A Texas health care worker who provided hospital care for an Ebola patient who later died has tested positive for the virus, health officials said Sunday in a statement. If the preliminary diagnosis is confirmed, it would be the first known case of the disease being contracted or transmitted in the U.S.
A statement posted on the Texas Department of State Health Service’s website said “confirmatory testing will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.”
Officials said the health care worker reported a low grade fever Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing. Preliminary test results were received late Saturday.
Hospital and state health officials did not identify the health care worker or provide their job description.
“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”
Health officials have interviewed the patient and are identifying any contacts or potential exposures. They said people who had contact with the health care worker after symptoms emerged will be monitored based on the nature of their interactions and the potential they were exposed to the virus.
Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., died Wednesday in Dallas. Duncan, 42, grew up next to a leper colony in Liberia and fled years of war before later returning to his country to find it ravaged by the disease that ultimately took his life.
Duncan arrived in Dallas in late September, realizing a long-held ambition to join relatives. He came to attend the high-school graduation of his son, who was born in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast and was brought to the U.S. as a toddler when the boy’s mother successfully applied for resettlement.
The trip was the culmination of decades of effort, friends and family members said. But when Duncan arrived in Dallas, though he showed no symptoms, he had already been exposed to Ebola. His neighbors in Liberia believe Duncan become infected when he helped a pregnant neighbor who later died from it. It was unclear if he knew about her diagnosis before traveling.
Duncan had arrived at a friend’s Dallas apartment on Sept. 20 — less than a week after helping his sick neighbor. For the nine days before he was taken to a hospital in an ambulance, Duncan shared the apartment with several people.