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Last updateSeg, 03 Jul 2017 6am

Details about first U.S. Ebola patient a mystery

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Public health authorities are working to track down anyone who may have come into close contact with a man who was confirmed Tuesday to be the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S.

Little is known about the patient, including his name, age, and nationality. Officials say he lived and worked in Liberia, where he likely caught the disease from one of the thousands infected in that country, but showed no symptoms when he flew back to the U.S. Sept. 19. As a result, no one who traveled with him on that flight is at risk of Ebola. 

It is not clear why he traveled to Dallas, where he has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sunday. Federal officials told the Dallas Morning News he was visiting family members, while city officials told the paper that he had made a permanent move. 

Hospital officials also told the News that they were reviewing an initial decision to send the man home with antibiotics this past Friday after he turned up at the hospital feeling unwell. He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance two days later and was immediately placed in isolation. Blood tests by Texas health officials and the CDC separately confirmed his Ebola diagnosis on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, members of North Texas's 10,000-strong Liberian community told the Associated Press they were skeptical of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden's assurances that "we'll stop this in its tracks in the U.S."

"We've been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings," Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth, said at a community meeting Tuesday.

"We need to know who it is so that they (family members) can all go get tested," Gaye told The Associated Press. "If they are aware, they should let us know."

The association's vice president encouraged all who may have come in contact with the virus to visit a doctor and she warned against alarm in the community.

"We don't want to get a panic going," said Roseline Sayon. "We embrace those people who are coming forward. Don't let the stigma keep you from getting tested."

Four American aid workers who became infected in West Africa have been flown back to the U.S. for treatment after they became sick. They were treated in special isolation facilities at hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska. Three have recovered.

A U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.

Liberia is one of the three hardest-hit countries in the epidemic, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa, and more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But even those tolls are probably underestimates, partially because there are not enough labs to test people for Ebola.

Two mobile Ebola labs staffed by American naval researchers arrived this weekend and will be operational this week, according to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. The labs will reduce the amount of time it takes to learn if a patient has Ebola from several days to a few hours.

The U.S. military also delivered equipment to build a 25-bed clinic that will be staffed by American health workers and will treat doctors and nurses who have become infected. The U.S. is planning to build 17 other clinics in Liberia and will help train more health workers to staff them.

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