DALLAS, Texas (CNN) — A test to see whether a Dallas sheriff’s deputy has Ebola came back negative, state health officials said Thursday.
Tests of a specimen from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where he was treated, were negative for the deadly virus, the Texas Department of State Health Services said.
Word of the test result is welcome news a day after the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Texas Ebola patient who was the first person diagnosed with the virus on American soil.
The deputy — identified as Sgt. Michael Monnig by local media — had reported being inside the Dallas apartment where Duncan had been staying and having “some contact” with Duncan’s family members, Frisco Fire Chief Mark Piland told reporters.
Ebola spreads through infected bodily fluids.
The hospital has said the deputy’s current condition is not consistent with Ebola.
And health officials earlier had said there was little chance Monnig had Ebola because he never had direct contact with Duncan and didn’t have a fever.
“The risk is extremely low because this individual didn’t have contact with the Ebola patient, but we want to err on the side of caution,” said Dr. David Lakey, Texas health commissioner. “We understand there’s a lot of anxiety in the community, and we hope getting test results back will help calm those fears.”
Monnig was a first responder and had spent about 30 minutes in the apartment, his son told CNN affiliate KTVT. He woke up Wednesday feeling sore and fatigued and with a stomachache.
“With the situation, what’s happened, he just decided it would be better to be safe than sorry,” Logan Monnig told KTVT.
As focus remains on Spain, where a healthcare worker with the deadly virus struggles to survive, there remain big questions about preparation and prevention: How will airport screening work? Are cities and towns trained to recognize and do the right thing if someone goes into a health care center exhibiting Ebola symptoms?
U.S. military’s role
As many as 4,000 service members have been approved for deployment to Liberia to help contain Ebola. Thursday, Congress approved the release of $750 million — the amount the Defense Department had requested for the mission.
“The world is facing a severe global health crisis emanating from West Africa,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. “The United States is stepping up to lead the international response” to the outbreak.
A total of 334 U.S. troops are currently in Liberia to help in the fight against the spread of the virus, Lt. Col. Dave Doherty said Thursday. A group of 90 U.S. Marines and airmen arrived Thursday, along with four V-22 Osprey aircraft and two C-130 transport planes. The presence of U.S. military personnel in the country marks the start of a build-up that will culminate with the arrival of troops from the 101st Airborne Division, Doherty said.
Spanish nurse’s assistant takes turn for worse
The condition of Teresa Romero Ramos, the nurse’s assistant in Madrid who has Ebola, has worsened, Yolanda Fuentes, deputy medical director of the city’s Carlos III Hospital, told reporters outside the facility Thursday.
Romero asked that her condition be announced, Fuentes said, though Fuentes declined to give details about how Romero’s health had deteriorated.
How Romero’s case was handled from the beginning has sparked concern. A week after she went to see a doctor about feeling sick, she tested positive for the virus. And yet, even after her test result came back at Madrid’s Alcorcon hospital, she had to wait for eight hours in an emergency room — possibly exposing other patients and medical staff — before she was transferred to another hospital that specializes in infectious diseases, according to a worker at Alcorcon.
Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato has told Parliament that Spain is going to revise its protocols for handling patients with Ebola.
Preparations in New York
In the fight to contain the deadly virus, there’s at least one unusual measure being taken in New York City.
On Thursday morning, Dr. Ross Wilson, the chief medical officer for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, told CNN that actors are being hired to go to health care facilities to fake symptoms of Ebola to test how well doctors and other health care workers identify and isolate possible cases.
“We take a standard script,” he said, and the actors “arrive at an emergency department and see staff unaware that these patients are not real patients.”
This acting lasts for about an hour and the scenario ends, Wilson said. “The important part is we then sit down in a very structured way to debrief and learn,” he said. “We’ve been gratified that most things have gone right, but there are a lot of human beings in this process, and they all have to come together in the same way every time, with every patient.”
New York City has 11 emergency departments that see more than a million patients a year, he said.
Also Thursday, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Dr. Mary Bassett, the New York City Department of Health commissioner, about Ebola preparations.
She said that authorities have reached out to the city’s large West African population to help educate them about the virus, how it is transmitted and what to look for in case they believe they or someone they know might have it.
The health department has received 88 phone calls from people in the area who have concerns and questions about the virus — calls that those people were urged to make by doctors treating them.
There have been no cases that merit an Ebola test, Bassett said.
The department is prepared to quarantine people if necessary, she said. Cuomo asked her if quarantine space has been identified, and she replied that people can be isolated in their own homes.
New York would essentially follow guidelines set out by the CDC, including an official investigation to find anyone who came into contact with an infected person and the monitoring of any contacts for 21 days during Ebola’s incubation period.
Bassett called for calm. “This is a scary infection, but we know how to stop it” from spreading, she said.
Airport screening coming
The CDC said five airports across the United States are increasing measures to help contain the virus.
Travelers arriving from the Ebola-ravaged West African countries Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia will have their temperatures taken.
Screening will begin Saturday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and then next week at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, Newark Liberty International Airport in northern New Jersey, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
A British government spokesman told CNN Thursday that authorities at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar railway terminals will begin screening passengers arriving from those same West African countries, though no details were given about when the screening will start.
It will involve assessing passengers’ recent travel history, who they have been in contact with and future travel arrangements, as well as a possible assessment performed by medical personnel, the spokesman said.
CNN’s Laura Perez-Maestro in Madrid, Brent Swails and Nima Elbagir in Monrovia, John Bonifield, Carma Hassan and Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta and Deirdre Walsh in Washington contributed to this report.