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First Ebola case diagnosed in U.S. confirmed in Dallas, CDC says

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(Bloomberg) — The first case of deadly Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. has been confirmed in Dallas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today in a statement.

The patient, who is being kept in isolation, was suspected of having the disease based on symptoms and travel history, the hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, said in a statement earlier today.

The Dallas patient was being kept in isolation while medical officials awaited word from the CDC, the hospital said. Another suspected case was being evaluated at a National Institutes of Health facility, U.S. officials said.

The Ebola outbreak has been concentrated in three West Africa countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The outbreak there has infected 6,574 and killed 3,091 people so far, according to the CDC. U.S. public health officials have been isolating and testing travelers who returned from the region with symptoms of the disease.

The latest cases come after at least three American aid workers who were diagnosed with Ebola in Africa were evacuated to U.S. hospitals, treated and discharged. Twelve other patients were previously tested in the U.S., the CDC said.

There is no approved treatment for Ebola, though drugmakers are attempting to develop vaccines or medicines that could be used in this or a future outbreak. Current care involves isolating the patient so they can’t infect others, and providing supportive treatment such as intravenous fluids and antibiotics to fight opportunistic infections.

U.S. outbreak

U.S. health officials have downplayed the chance of a major outbreak of the disease in the U.S., saying the country’s superior medical infrastructure would be able to quickly isolate the disease.

“It’s not a potential of Ebola spreading widely in the U.S.,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, in a July 31 conference call with reporters. “That is not in the cards.”

U.S. and European governments have been criticized for being slow to respond, and much of fight against the outbreak has been conducted by missionary and charitable groups with personnel on the ground, including Doctors Without Borders, Samaritans Purse and SIM USA. The groups have said they are overwhelmed, do not have enough beds to treat patients, and that the outbreak is rapidly growing out of control.

The U.S. Department of Defense has authorized sending 1,400 troops to Liberia to help contain the spread of Ebola virus efforts in Western Africa, where the virus has crippled existing medical infrastructure.

The troops will supervise the construction of Ebola treatment units, conduct site surveys and provide engineering expertise, John Kirby, a press secretary for the department said in a news briefing today. Half of the troops will come from the 101st Airborne Division while the remaining 700 will come from the Army.

Troop pledge

The pledge to send troops was part of the U.S. effort to contain the spread of Ebola virus, and governments and international aid groups are sending money and personnel to help fight help outbreak. Leaders in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea urged the international community to do more to keep the epidemic, the worst in history, from killing their people and harming their economies.

“Ebola is raging. It kills more than 200 people a day, two thirds of them women,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who headed today’s meeting. “Despite the valiant efforts of local communities, health systems are buckling under the strain.”

See also:

WHO: Epidemic preparedness funding cuts slowed Ebola response

On the Third Hand: Ebola