State lab hopes to have Ebola test results today

The Texas public health lab in Austin is testing a specimen from a Dallas patient for Ebola, and hopes to have results later Tuesday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services said.

Carrie Williams, director of media relations, said in an emailed update, “At this point, all precautions are being taken as if this was an Ebola case.”

Erikka Neroes, public information officer for Dallas County, said the county will release the results for the patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, whether they are positive or negative.

She said she could not confirm that a team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is coming to Dallas, but confirmed that a team is mobilizing. Williams said the CDC also is conducting testing for Ebola.

The patient came to the hospital on his or her own, according to Dallas County Health Director Zachary Thomas. He said in an interview with media partner WFAA that the patient had traveled to Africa.

In the current outbreak — the world’s largest ever, which began in West Africa — Ebola is fatal about 50 percent of the time. It has killed more than 3,000 people.

David Magana, spokesman at DFW Airport, said the county, the CDC and other public health agencies look into travel routes, adding, “We take our lead from the health agencies” with respect to any kind of screening.

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport has no direct flights to and from Africa, so if the patient were flying, he or she would have had to make a connection elsewhere.

Williams’ email says the state and local health departments are coordinating with the CDC.

Tarrant County monitoring

The Tarrant County Public Health Department is monitoring the situation closely, a spokesman said.

“In any of these scenarios, we are ears up. We are listening. We are making phone calls to get the best information we can,” said Kelly Hanes, Tarrant County Public Health spokesman. “We are not passively sitting here by any means.”

Hanes added that the patient in Dallas is “in the best place they can be, for their safety and our safety as well.”

The patient, who has not been identified, is being kept in strict isolation at the hospital, according to a statement released Monday by the hospital.

The statement says officials at Texas Presbyterian are following CDC recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.

Ebola has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region, including Dr. Kent Brantly, who did his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Brantly, who survived, was doing missionary work in Liberia when he was infected.

The National Institutes of Health recently admitted an American doctor exposed to the virus while volunteering in Sierra Leone. Four other patients have been treated at hospitals in Georgia and Nebraska.

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.