First Ebola Case in U.S. Confirmed. Don't Panic!



CNBC is reporting that Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas has stated that it is treating a patient for the Ebola virus. The patient had recently traveled back from Liberia where the disease is spreading nearly without control. The person was not symptomatic during the flight. Four American health care workers have been or are being treated for Ebola. 

Interestingly this case is within the time frame calculated earlier by epidemiological models. As I reported earlier this month

A new study in the journal PLoS Currents Outbreaks calculates that there is an 18 percent chance that a case of Ebola will arrive in the United States by the end of this month. The researchers inputed airline travel data and various outbreak scenarios into a computer model to come up with probabilty figures for the arrival of Ebola in 16 different countries. Is it time to panic? Absolutely not. The researchers also report that the likelihood that the disease would spread extensively in developed countries is tiny:

We observe that the expected value of the cluster size in the case of international spread is always rather small (in all countries mean<6; median<4). Large outbreak involving more than 10 individuals although potentially possible can be considered as very rare events (Detailed statistics per country are available upon request). This numerical evidence is good news, as it points out that effective management and isolation of cases is keeping the number of EVD (Ebola) cases to deal with to a very limited number, lowering the risk of losing control of the outbreak.

In other words, the number of people likely to be infected through contact with a person bringing Ebola to our shores maxes out at around 10 individuals.

Stay calm and carry on. 

My colleague Emily Ekins noted back in August that a USA Today and a Reason Rupe poll reported that 40 percent of Americans thought an Ebola outbreak was likely in a U.S. city. 

Will update after the Centers for Disease Control press conference later today. 

Update: CDC director Tom Frieden at the press conference on the Dallas Ebola case noted (1) that the virus is not spread when a patient is asymptomatic; (2) tracking and tracing the patient's contacts (mostly family) is ongoing; (3) people with contact with the patient will be isolated and monitored for the next 3 weeks or so; (4) lots of U.S. hospitals have the ability to isolate patients effectively; (5) in fact 4 earlier cases of Lassa fever and one case of Marburg virus were successfully isolated in the U.S.; (6) on the international front not one of the 600 contacts of Ebola patients in Nigeria came down with the disease; (7) and the same thing for 60 contacts in Senegal.

Prediction: A virulent outbreak of newsreader panic will spread tonight.