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December 6, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Patient at Harborview being tested for possible Ebola

A 52-year-old King County man is in isolation at Harborview Medical Center, being monitored for possible Ebola infection after developing a fever following a trip to Mali in West Africa.

Officials at a news conference Saturday afternoon said the measures are precautionary and that it is “very unlikely” the man has the disease.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, the chief of communicable disease and epidemiology for Public Health — Seattle and King County, said it’s more likely that the patient has the flu or a cold.

The man had been visiting family in Mali for about three weeks with his son, and had returned to his home in King County on Wednesday. He was under a CDC-mandated 21-day observation when he developed a fever and a sore throat, Duchin said.

It takes up to 21 days for symptoms of an Ebola infection to appear.

The man has no other symptoms associated with the virus and, according to Duchin, had not reported any contact with infected individuals or engaged in behaviors associated with transmission of the disease.

“The likelihood that this person has Ebola is low,” Duchin said.

Preliminary test results for the virus could available Sunday. In the meantime, the man is in a “negative-pressure, airborne isolation room” at the medical center, where Duchin said he is in good spirits and listed in satisfactory condition.

“He’s not very ill. He has a low-grade fever,” the doctor said.

His caregivers are wearing full protective gear nevertheless.

“All standard Centers for Disease Control protections and monitoring are in place,” Duchin said.

Dr. Timothy Dellit, associate medical director at Harborview, said the hospital has prepared for the safe management of any Ebola cases. Duchin said Public Health has taken steps to identify anyone the individual has come into contact with in the event it turns out that he is infected.

An outbreak of the rare Ebola virus has raged in parts of West Africa since this spring and has infected more than 17,000 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierre Leone, with more than 6,100 dead so far, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response, the U.S. began to monitor people who have traveled to areas where the virus has been detected. Ebola causes a hemorrhagic fever that kills between a third and half the people it infects. Individuals with the disease are not contagious unless they are showing symptoms, according to the CDC.

Mali, a landlocked country with a population of more than 15 million, has reported eight Ebola cases, including one that was unconfirmed. Six of those individuals died, according to the World Health Organization.

Duchin said there are 14 people under Ebola surveillance in King County. The unidentified man discussed Saturday is the first to show any symptom of possible infection.

“As this is cold and flu season, the mild symptoms that this individual is experiencing is mostly 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,” Duchin said.

Comments | Topics: Ebola, Harborview Medical Center

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