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Texas health worker contracts Ebola virus

By Agence France-Presse in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-13 07:23

Case would be the first of person to catch disease while in United States

A Texas health care worker who treated an Ebola victim has tested positive for the deadly tropical fever, dealing a blow to the worldwide battle to stem the outbreak.

More than 4,000 people have died of Ebola in seven countries since the start of the year, according to the World Health Organization, and the epidemic appears to be outpacing efforts to fight it.

If preliminary test results are confirmed, the Texas patient would be the second person diagnosed with the illness and apparently the first to contract it on US soil, a day after US airports began screening travelers from epidemic-hit West Africa.

"We knew a second case could be a reality, and we've been preparing for this possibility," said Dr David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

"We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread."

The health care worker from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas reported a low-grade fever Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing, Texas health services said in a statement early Sunday. They did not further identify the worker nor detail how exposure to the virus occurred.

The hospital had treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died on Wednesday. Duncan was believed to have been infected with Ebola before he left Liberia and boarded a plane to visit family in Texas.

The latest Texas case underlines United Nations fears and growing concerns in the United States about Ebola, for which there is no vaccine or widely available treatment.

"The virus is far ahead of us, and every day the situation gets worse," the head of the United Nations' emergency Ebola mission, Anthony Banbury, told UN leaders after a tour of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the nations worst affected by the worst-ever outbreak of the disease.

Passengers from the three countries arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City will have their temperatures taken and be screened for signs of illness and answer questions about possible exposure, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

"Exit screening might not find every person with Ebola, however, it does not have to be perfect to help reduce the spread of Ebola," the CDC said in a statement. Four other major US airports are to start similar checks next week.

The CDC has predicted the number of cases globally could increase in a worst-case scenario to 1.4 million by January unless strong measures are taken to contain the disease.

Nurse improving

In Spain, attention remained focused on 44-year-old Teresa Romero, the Madrid nurse who became the first person to get infected with the hemorrhagic fever outside of Africa.

Her condition had "improved in the night. She is conscious and talks from time to time when she is in a good mood," a hospital source said.

Romero's brother confirmed that his sister was improving.

"She no longer has a fever," Jose-Ramon Romero told private television channel La Sexta.

 Texas health worker contracts Ebola virus

Thomas Nellon, left, 17, and his brother Johnson Nellon, 14, of Liberia, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, on Saturday. They received health screening upon arrival, the first day of Ebola screening at JFK. Craig Ruttle / Associated Press

(China Daily 10/13/2014 page11)

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