A man who recently visited West Africa was placed in isolation at a New York City hospital and was undergoing tests for the Ebola virus, officials said Monday.
The man, suffering from a high fever and gastrointestinal symptoms, arrived at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan early Monday, the hospital said. He had recently travelled to a West African country where Ebola has been reported, it said.
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"Odds are it is not Ebola," said Dr. Jeremy Boal, the hospital's chief medical officer. Still, the patient was rushed into strict isolation within seven minutes of his arrival at the hospital.
The patient was in "good condition" and results of tests to find the cause of his symptoms were expected by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, Boal and hospital president David Reich said.
New York City's Health Department echoed the hospital officials, saying "the patient is unlikely to have Ebola." The department said more testing was being done for common causes of illness and to definitively exclude Ebola.
Officials at U.S. airports are watching travellers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the recent Ebola outbreak there.
The Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever that has sickened more than 1,600 people in its most recent outbreak, killing nearly 900 mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. It's spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine, unlike an airborne virus such as influenza or the common cold. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21 days to exhibit any symptoms, making it possible for infected travellers to enter a country without knowing they have it.
The World Health Organization announced Monday that the death toll has increased from 729 to 887 across Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria in the current outbreak. Most of the newly reported deaths occurred in Liberia. Officials in Liberia have ordered the remains of victims to be cremated to prevent further infection.
'Unlikely' any cases will emerge in Canada
Over the weekend, an American physician infected with Ebola was brought to the United States from Africa. He was being treated in Atlanta. A second aid worker was expected to arrive in several days.
In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada released a statement Saturday saying it is "working closely with its provincial and territorial partners in health. The agency's National Microbiology Laboratory is well connected with its network of provincial labs to ensure it is ready to detect and respond quickly in the unlikely event that a case arrives in Canada."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said three Americans in the United States were tested for Ebola since the West African outbreak erupted this year, and all three results were negative.
Border patrol agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Dulles Airport in Washington have been told to ask travellers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, a headache, achiness, a sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, a rash or red eyes.
While the CDC says it is not screening passengers boarding planes at African airports — the job of local authorities there — it said it has encouraged vulnerable countries to follow certain precautions. Outbound passengers in the countries experiencing Ebola are being screened for fevers and with health questionnaire