American hospitals and state labs have handled at least 68 Ebola scares over the last three weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Hospitals in 27 states alerted the CDC of the possible Ebola cases out of an abundance of caution amid the growing outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Fifty-eight cases were deemed false alarms after CDC officials spoke with medical professions about patient exposures and symptoms, but blood samples for the remaining 10 were sent to the CDC for testing, the agency told ABC News today.
Seven of the samples tested negative for the virus and results for the remaining three are pending, the agency said.
Once a hospital or state lab notifies the CDC of a possible Ebola case based on travel history and symptoms, CDC officials talk to someone familiar with the suspected patient’s history to determine whether blood testing for the virus is necessary, said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. They discuss symptoms and determine whether the patient may have been exposed to the virus. Exposure can happen if the patient is a health care worker, has buried someone with Ebola, has lived in a house with someone who had Ebola or has lived in a place where Ebola is spreading.
“If somebody had traveled to Guinea and came back and had a fever and has never been to a place where Ebola is transmitted, there’s no reason to suspect there’s Ebola just because Ebola is circulating in Guinea,” Nordlund said, explaining that the CDC takes suspected cases seriously but has to narrow them down.
The latest scare to make headlines involves a patient at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Sacramento who "may have been exposed to the Ebola virus," the hospital said in a statement. The patient has been isolated in a negative pressure room while awaiting blood test results from the CDC.
Earlier this week, a 30-year-old woman arrived at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque with a fever, sore throat, headache and muscle aches after returning from Sierra Leone, according to the New Mexico Department of Public Health. She is currently in isolation and awaiting test results from the CDC, according to the department.
Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland and an undisclosed hospital in Ohio have also tested patients for Ebola over the past several weeks.
The CDC has urged health care providers to ask patients about their travel history to help identify potential Ebola cases.
The death toll of the outbreak stands at 1,229, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. At least 2,240 people have been infected since March 2014.