AUSTIN (KXAN) – Tuesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services laboratory in Austin confirmed a Dallas hospital patient has Ebola. The patient recently traveled back to Texas from West Africa, a region currently experiencing an outbreak of Ebola.
Ebola is a virus contracted by direct contact with bodily fluids, it is not transmitted through the air.
Ebola can initially be difficult to diagnose because the early symptoms are not specific to Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Instead, those symptoms are often associated with diseases that occur more frequently like malaria and typhoid fever. Doctors have a range of diagnostic options from which to choose depending on how recently the symptoms began. The Department of State Health Services lab in Austin was just certified to test for Ebola in August.
Symptoms of Ebola
- Fever (greater than 101.5°F)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Who is at risk of getting Ebola?
Because the virus is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person or animal, healthcare teams, family and friends of an Ebola patient are at the highest risk of contracting the illness because they may come in contact with infected bodily fluids. Those who have traveled to countries in West Africa with active Ebola cases are more likely to become infected.
How is it treated?
Doctors administer IV fluids and electrolytes to the patient to help prevent dehydration. Medical teams carefully monitor the patient’s oxygen status and blood pressure to keep the disease at bay. In the case of American doctors who contracted the disease while serving as missionaries in West Africa, a special serum was used in the treatment. More current research indicated the blood of a person who overcomes an Ebola infection can help cure a patient of Ebola. Currently, there is not an FCC approved vaccine for the disease.
Is an Ebola infection a death sentence?
No. While an infection is often deadly, recovery from the disease depends on a particular patient’s immune system. According to the CDC, Survivors are thought to be immune from reinfection for 10 years.
How did a sample make it from Dallas to Austin for testing?
Information from CDC, images from CIA World Fact Book.
NOTE: There have been three other instances of Ebola in the U.S.. including Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania, no humans were infected. Cases were due to imported monkeys.