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Local Expert Wonders Why Texas Ebola Patient Wasn't Isolated Immediately

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A man in Dallas has become the first person in the United States with a confirmed Ebola virus diagnosis, and one local expert was alarmed that the patient was not isolated immediately.

As CBS 2's Lou Young reported, Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Thomas Frieden announced late Tuesday that a person traveling from Liberia had been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. The patient was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.


Unlike the four U.S. aid workers who got sick in West Africa and were flown home for treatment at special isolation centers, the Texas patient did not know he was sick until he was back in the U.S.

The patient left Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in the United States on Sept. 20 with no virus symptoms, Frieden said in a news conference. Frieden said it was four or five days later that the patient began developing symptoms and was ultimately admitted to the hospital this past Sunday, CBS DFW reported.

"We received in our laboratory today specimens from the individual, tested them and they tested positive for Ebola. The State of Texas also operates a laboratory that found the same results," Frieden said. After the confirmation statement, Frieden went on to stress that the testing for Ebola is very accurate, saying that it is a PCR test of blood.

A top epidemiologist at Columbia University told CBS 2's Young Tuesday that he was most alarmed the man was not isolated right away.

"I think they should've asked a few more questions, you know, at least they should have -- because it starts out like a flu-like illness," said Dr. Stephen Morse of the Mailman School of Public Health. "There is no way to tell is it's Ebola until, you know, suddenly it is."

And the outbreak is killing fully half the people infected. Everyone the patient had close contact with after symptoms surfaced a week ago is potentially at risk.

"We are going to track all the people who had contact with him, and we're going to watch them and monitor their health," said Dr. Edward Goodman of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

As far as the medical condition of the infected patient in Texas, Frieden said he "is critically ill at this point," CBS DFW reported.

KTVT-TV, CBS 11 in Dallas learned late Tuesday evening the man is communicating with health workers and telling them when he's hungry.

Meanwhile, as dangerous as it seems, Ebola is much more difficult to catch than the flu. It is not airborne, and doctors insist that other passengers on the flight from Liberia were not at risk because the symptoms had not yet begun.

The Ebola virus has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa.

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