New Mexico woman tested for Ebola after visiting Sierra Leone

A New Mexico woman is being tested for Ebola, but health officials say that it is unlikely she has the virus.

The state Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are testing the 30-year-old patient at University of New Mexico Hospital. The woman returned to New Mexico earlier this month from Sierra Leone, where she worked as a teacher, according to Albuquerque Journal. Sierra Leone is one of the several countries in West Africa affected by the current Ebola outbreak.

The woman has a sore throat, headache, muscle aches and fever, which resemble initial symptoms of Ebola infection. She is in stable condition, and had no known exposure to the virus.

Experts say that it is unlikely that the New Mexico patient has Ebola, and confirm that they are testing her out of caution.

"Returning from overseas with a fever could be a lot of things," Dr. Meghan Brett, the UNMH epidemiologist, told Albuquerque Journal. "It could be routine."

Dr. Robert Bailey, an associate dean for clinical affairs at The University of New Mexico's School of Medicine, said that it is unlikely the woman has Ebola, but staff want to be cautiously prudent, The Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

"There really isn't a risk to the public at this point," Bailey said. "The risk of Ebola is not having the patient in the hospital -- being in a situation like the folks in Africa are experiencing right now with folks getting sick in rural villages and nobody recognizes it."

Bailey added that the hospital will send test samples to the CDC and hopes to have the results by Wednesday or Thursday.

Health workers who are treating the woman wear protective gowns, gloves, face mask and eye protection. The hospital is also limiting the patient's visitors, Brett said.

The woman came back from Sierra Leone to the Albuquerque area on Aug. 4 and began to show symptoms on Aug. 15, according to Dr. Joan Baumbach, the deputy epidemiologist for the state Health Department.

As of Aug. 15, there had been 2,127 suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola and 1,145 suspected deaths from the disease in West Africa, according to the CDC.

However, the CDC has stressed that the risk of a traveler bringing Ebola to the U.S is small. And even if a traveler infected with the Ebola came to the U.S., the risk of an outbreak is considered to be very low, according to Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC director.

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