An American health worker has tested positive for Ebola in West Africa, and will be transported, via private charter, to Bethesda, Maryland for treatment at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. According to a press release from the hospital, the health worker had been volunteering in an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone before the diagnosis. No other information about the person was released.
The NIH Clinical Center has one of just a handful of biocontainment units in the U.S. that are equipped to receive and treat patients that require high levels of isolation. The facility, known as the Special Clinical Studies Unit, is prepared to handle highly infectious specimens and is staffed by health workers trained to care for people with infectious diseases or victims of bioterrorism. NIH successfully treated Texas nurse Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola from the first U.S. patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. They also received two unidentified volunteer health workers who were exposed to the disease while volunteering in West Africa (and who ultimately tested negative).
The Ebola virus has infected 24,247 people and killed an estimated 9,961 people since the beginning of the outbreak in 2014, according to the World Health Organization’s most recent status report. Most of the cases are concentrated in the three West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. While the pace of Ebola infections has declined tremendously (there were only 116 new confirmed cases of Ebola in the week ending Mar. 8), public health officials are warning that people stay on guard against complacency.