© David Woo/Staff Photographer
Dallas County health officials on Tuesday told county commissioners that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dispatching a team to Dallas in case a patient at a local hospital tests positive for Ebola.
The report was delivered after Health and Human Services officials cut short a presentation on the threat of an Ebola outbreak for a conference call with the CDC. Officials said the CDC team would lead the response if test results, expected today, come back positive for the patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.
During a media briefing outside the commissioners meeting, Dr. Christopher Perkins, the health department's medical director, said it was after arriving home from West Africa that the patient started showing symptoms, the point at which Ebola becomes contagious.
"We know at this time this person was not symptomatic during travel but became symptomatic once arriving here and being home for several days," Perkins said. "So that decreases the threat that might be to the general population."
Symptoms of the deadly virus can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches unrelated to any other disease.
Health and Human Services officials told commissioners that they had already begun an investigation to find people who had been in contact with the patient. Director Zachary Thompson said it was not unusual for the department to begin tracing contacts after being notified about a possible contagious disease. County nurse epidemiologists are tracking down the patient's family members, friends and work colleagues, basically anyone who might have been exposed, if the virus is confirmed, he said.