HOUSTON, Texas — An employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who may have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who brought Ebola into the U.S., has left the country on a commercial cruise ship.
Out of an “abundance of caution,” the hospital employee and a travel partner agreed to be isolated in a cabin on the ship, according to the New York Times. Medical staff among the ship reportedly told the State Department that the two individuals are not showing any Ebola symptoms at this time.
The cruise ship, which left the U.S. on October 12 from Galveston, Texas, is currently in waters governed by Belize. The government of Belize has decided to prohibit the potentially-exposed passenger from evacuating the ship on their land, despite a request from the U.S. government.
A statement from the government of Belize’s Press Office stated that it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola. The passenger had voluntarily entered quarantine on board the ship and remains free of any fever or other symptoms of illness. The Ebola virus may only be spread by patients who are experiencing fever and symptoms of illness and so the U.S. Government had emphasized the very low risk category in this case. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement to the New York Times, “The individual was out of the country before being notified of the C.D.C.’s updated requirements for active monitoring. At the time the hospital employee left the country, C.D.C. was requiring only self-monitoring. The cruise line has actively supported the C.D.C.’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”
The State Department has requested that the individual and travel partner be brought back the U.S. as soon as possible.
So far, two of Duncan’s caregivers — both Dallas-based nurses — have been diagnosed with Ebola. Given that an infected individual may take up to 21 days to show symptoms of the deadly virus, it is still largely unknown if other hospital workers who cared for Duncan also contracted Ebola.
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