King County health officials test patient who returned from Africa, developed fever

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Harborview Medical Center (Photo: Getty Images)

SEATTLE — King County health officials are testing a patient who recently returned from Mali and developed a fever on Saturday.

They said it is very unlikely that the patient has Ebola, but officials requested the patient be tested as a precaution. That person is being monitored in isolation and is in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center.

Officials said the patient has been monitored since returning to the area on December 3rd. That person has had no exposure outside the home since symptoms developed. A person is not contagious when there are no symptoms.

The patient also has a sore throat, but none of the other typical symptoms to suggest Ebola. Initial test results are expected in the next 12 hours.

Health officials said the patient had no contact with anyone infected with Ebola and also noted that person is not a health care worker.

Ebola is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

According to the World Health Organization, Mali had only a handful of confirmed Ebola cases.

“As this is cold and flu season, the mild symptoms that this individual is experiencing is most likely something other than Ebola, and the vast majority of similar cases among travelers evaluated for Ebola to-date in the U.S. have not been related to Ebola.” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease at Public Health –Seattle & King County. “The likelihood that this person has Ebola is low, and we will have more information over the next few days based on how the illness progresses and results of any testing that is indicated.”

Here is more information from Public Health – Seattle & King County:

Public health officials further noted that the level of virus in the earliest stages of Ebola is so low that tests may not be able to pick up Ebola for two or three days. The low level of virus in the earliest stages also means that people in the earliest stages of Ebola infection are also much less contagious than those in the later stages.

Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health have done extensive planning with Harborview Medical Center to make sure they have the systems and resources in place to safely manage patients with possible Ebola infection.

In the event that the test results find that the individual has Ebola, health officials have taken steps to minimize the risk for possible spread to others by identifying all contacts of this individual. No contacts have been identified outside the traveler’s household since the onset of fever. Someone with Ebola cannot transmit the virus unless they are showing symptoms.

The hospital has implemented their Ebola response plan. Although it has not yet been determined whether or not the patient has an Ebola infection, as a precaution, the plan specifies that the hospital minimize the number of health care workers who have contact with the patient and that staff use appropriate protective gear. Plans also call for careful monitoring by safety officers to ensure that all infection control procedures are strictly followed.

Public health officials will notify the public about the results of the laboratory tests for Ebola virus when they are available.

The World Health Organization has reported 8 cases of Ebola in Mali related to the current outbreak in West Africa, including 6 deaths. Of these cases, one was a probable but unconfirmed case of Ebola.

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