American doctor exposed to Ebola hospitalized at NIH facility

NIH clinical center
NIH clinical center

The NIH Clinical Center has admitted a US doctor exposed to the Ebola virus., NIH

An American doctor who was exposed to the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone has been airlifted back to the United States and was admitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., for observation.

No details were available about the patient. The Associated Press (AP) today published a photograph of a person in head-to-toe white protective gear descending the stairs of a private jet at Frederick (Md.) Municipal Airport, led by an individual who wasn't wearing any protective gear.

Enrolled in clinical trial

In a press release yesterday the NIH said the patient arrived at the center yesterday at about 4 pm Eastern time and will enroll in a clinical protocol. It said that out of an abundance of caution the patient was admitted to the special clinical studies unit that had high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed with infectious disease and clinical care specialists.

The NIH said the situation presents minimal risk and it is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of patients, NIH staff, and the public.

According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, people considered contacts of Ebola virus disease (EVD) patients can travel long distances only by private means during a 21-day interval after last contact. Those exposed to EVD undergo symptom monitoring for 21 days.

In late August, the CDC returned a staff member from West Africa by charter flight after he or she had low-risk contact with an international health worker who had tested positive for EVD. The CDC said in an outbreak update today that the staff member was not sick, did not have any disease symptoms, and did not pose a risk to anyone else.

All told, four medical workers have been sickened with the disease and were brought back to the United States for treatment. Three have recovered and been released from the hospital, and one remains hospitalized in a high-containment unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Ivory Coast lifts air travel restriction

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara announced on Sep 26 that the country would lift its Ebola-related flight restrictions, according to an AP story. He said the initial suspension was made because of uncertainty about the disease threat. The western part of Ivory Coast borders Liberia and Guinea, two of the three hardest-hit countries.

Ouattara said the flight and maritime restrictions will end this week, according to the AP. He also announced that Ivory Coast will open a humanitarian corridor so that people seeking to enter the country can be checked.

The country banned travel from the three outbreak countries on Aug 11 and ordered its main air carrier to suspend flights to the outbreak region. Global health officials, however, have urged other countries not to close borders and shut down flights, because the measure has hampered the flow of supplies needed for epidemic response.

The US State Department on Sep 27 commended Ivory Coast for resuming air travel to the Ebola-affected countries, in line with World Health Organization and International Air Transport Association recommendations. Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that lifting the air travel ban will greatly enhance the international community's ability to rapidly respond to the outbreak and will help maintain vital trade links in the region.

Australia sees airlift logistics roadblocks

Meanwhile, in other outbreak developments:

  • Despite calls from groups such as Doctors without Borders for Australia to send medical teams to West Africa, the country has ruled out doing so because of logistical problems of bringing sick workers back to Australia, the AP reported today. Earlier this month the country pledged $6.4 million to assist with the epidemic response.
  • US Navy engineers on Sep 28 took the first steps toward the construction of a $22 million 25-bed mobile hospital donated by the United States to care for infected international health workers, the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper based in Toronto, reported on Sep 28. The report said other US troops are in Monrovia evaluating the runway of the city's international airport and determining how the tarmac might be strengthened to handle a surge of response flights expected in the weeks ahead.
  • The CDC on Sep 26 posted two new EVD preparedness checklists, one for healthcare coalitions and one for emergency medical services (EMS) providers. The documents were created by the CDC and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
  • Hemispherx Biopharma, Inc., based in Philadelphia, announced five Ebola drug collaborations aimed at developing therapeutic cocktails that have the potential to battle the Ebola virus if it mutates to become resistant to drugs that are under development. The newly announced collaborators include the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the US Army Research Institute of Infectious Disease, the Swiss Department of Defense, Howard University in Washington, D.C., and an unnamed US-based biosafety level 4 lab. The company said in a press release that its two platform drugs, Alferon N and Amplign, have mechanisms that remain bioactive, even in the face of viral mutation.
  • A Liberian doctor said he has seen promising results in EVD patients prescribed an antiretroviral drug, part of a cocktail used to treat HIV/AIDS, AllAfrica news reported today. Dr Gorbee Logan, county health officer at Tubmanburg Hospital, said that when patients seek care early and are treated with lamivudine, they seem to recover in 3 to 5 days. He said he first used the drug on a health worker, who survived the infection.

See also:

Sep 29 AP story

Sep 28 NIH press release

Sep 29 CDC outbreak update

Sep 26 AP story on Ivory Coast flight restrictions

Sep 27 State Department statement

Sep 29 AP story on Australian announcement

Sep 28 Globe and Mail story

Sep 26 CDC healthcare coalition Ebola preparedness checklist

Sep 26 CDC EMS Ebola preparedness checklist

Sep 29 Hemispherx Biopharma press release

Sep 29 AllAfrica news story

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