For the second time, an Ebola test has come back negative for the patient who has been kept in isolation at Duke University Hospital since Sunday, and he is now considered free of any risk of developing the deadly disease, state health officials said late Wednesday.
The man, who had traveled from Liberia over the weekend, was brought to the hospital Sunday night after developing a fever, one symptom of Ebola.
An initial test completed early Monday found no traces of the virus in his blood, and he showed no other symptoms after he arrived at Duke.
After the second test, he was discharged from the hospital. He will be monitored for fever until the maximum incubation period for the virus – 21 days – has expired.
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Three family members he had visited in Person County agreed to voluntarily remain in their home until the second test came back negative and to submit to daily monitoring of their own health by county officials. They were considered no health risk to others after the first test, State Epidemiologist Megan Davies said, but agreed to confinement until the second test out of sensitivity to the fears of people in their community.
Several people around the state who recently visited one of the three West African countries affected by the epidemic have been or are still being monitored to ensure they don’t develop symptoms. That includes five now being monitored in Alamance County and two in Guilford County. All seven have shown no symptoms.
Alamance County Health Director Stacie R. Turpin Saunders said in an emailed statement Wednesday that the five people her department is monitoring had no known exposure to anyone with the virus and were not health care workers.
Essentially they’re under scrutiny because they had traveled in the afflicted area, Saunders said.
County officials were notified of their presence there by state health officials, who in turn were informed by the federal officials who screened them on their arrival in the United States.
Saunders said Alamance County health officials met with the travelers, assessed their health and instructed them how to look for signs of fever by taking their temperature twice a day. The travelers report to the health department daily, she said.
The two people in Guilford County who visited the epidemic area also were checking in daily with county health officials as of Tuesday.
State health officials weren’t able to immediately say how many travelers are being monitored in North Carolina by local public health departments, in part because that changes almost daily.
The number is small, though, and fluctuates regularly as travelers enter or leave the state, wrote Davies in an emailed statement, adding that the monitoring is in accordance with travel guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“These precautionary measures are designed to swiftly detect symptoms, should any arise, and do not indicate that these travelers pose a risk to public health or safety,” Davies wrote.
“Our public health officials are committed to protecting the safety of North Carolinians by stringently adhering to these guidelines while respecting personal privacy.”
The situation here with “active monitoring” of travelers recently arrived from West Africa is common across the country. In New York City, for example, health officials said Wednesday that 357 people were being monitored, none of them with symptoms or known exposure to people who were infected.
Ebola can only be transmitted by direct contact with bodily fluid from someone who is not only infected but also showing symptoms.