CDC Confirms Negative Ebola Results for Yale Student

A Yale University doctoral student hospitalized for treatment of Ebola-like symptoms has tested negative for the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday afternoon, according to the New Haven mayor's office.

The student was admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital on Wednesday night and has been kept in isolation. He was one of two students to recently return from a trip to Liberia and exhibited no symptoms upon his arrival back in the U.S., officials said Thursday.

The students were conducting research in the West African country where Ebola is widespread. They returned on Saturday, Oct. 11 and were kept in voluntary sequestration, said Laurence Grotheer, spokesperson for New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

Despite the negative results, the state Department of Public Health has ordered the patient to remain isolated as a precaution. A quarantine order has also been issued for the second student who traveled to Liberia, according to DPH spokesman Bill Gerrish.

The student will remain sequestered in his home, Grotheer said. He was still quarantined on Saturday.

Additionally, students who have traveled to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone, the African countries where Ebola is widespread, will not be allowed to return to New Haven schools until after they have been back in the U.S. for 21 days, according to Grotheer.

Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a news conference on Thursday afternoon that no further testing would be conducted if the initial results were to come back negative.

Last week, Malloy declared a state public health emergency as a precaution, which granted the commissioner of the state Department of Public Health the authority to quarantine and isolate people whom she "reasonably believes has been exposed to the Ebola virus."

He has since taken additional steps to prepare the state, including assembling a Unified Command Team led by the public health commissioner. Malloy has also asked all hospitals to perform a drill within the next week to be sure their procedures are up to standards.

Residents who become sick with a fever with and/or develop Ebola symptoms who have traveled to Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the past 21 days, or have had contact with a person diagnosed with Ebola will be sent to a hospital for evaluation and placed in isolation, according to a news release from Malloy.

People who are not sick but who have traveled to affected areas or been in contact with an infected individual will be required to stay home for 21 days and take their temperature twice a day, according to a statement from Malloy's office. 

Public heath health workers will then check up on the patient twice daily, and those who develop a fever or other symptoms suggestive of Ebola will be taken to a hospital for evaluation and placed in a separate room.

Officials emphasized on Thursday that Ebola is a disease that is not easy to catch and can only be contracted by coming into direct contact with an infected individual who is exhibiting symptoms. The virus is not airborne.

Richard D'Aquila, president of Yale-New Haven Hospital, said during a news conference earlier  Thursday afternoon that the hospital has been preparing for the possibility of Ebola cases for weeks. He added that admission of the possible Ebola patient went smoothly.

According to Yale-New Haven Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Balcezak, hospital staff were alerted Wednesday afternoon after the student contacted a primary care physician in the community to say he had come down with a fever.

After some preparatory work at the hospital, an ambulance transported the student to the emergency department, where he was evaluated and determined to be in stable condition. He was then placed in isolation in a high-level precaution area under negative pressure, where air is exchanged and vented to an outside area.

The student remains in-patient and is listed in good condition, Balcezak said. Officials are not identifying the patient because of HIPAA privacy rules.

Yale President Peter Salvoney released a statement Thursday, saying the decision to hospitalize the student was made out of an "abundance of caution," based on the recommendations of doctors, state health officials and the CDC.  

"The doctoral students who visited Liberia are knowledgeable about public health. They have reported that they were not in contact with Ebola patients or caregivers in Liberia, that they carefully followed recommended travel and hygiene precautions during their stay in the country and that they have continued to do so since their return," the statement says, in part.

Hospital officials said Yale-New Haven is limiting the number of medical professionals caring for the patient to two attending physicians trained in critical care and internal medicine, as well as two rotating nurses. Others will care for the patient as needed, Balcezak said.

When asked about safeguards being taken, Balcezak said hospital officials are adhering to the "highest standards" for disposing the patient's linens and cleaning equipment.

Dr. Louise-Marie Dembry, an epidemiologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said the hospital is following what their vendor recommends and what has been vetted by the CDC.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Harp said medical responders have been operating with the highest level of precaution, "even higher than is required by the CDC." 

She also urged people to remember that flu season has begun and Ebola is not easily contracted.

"If you haven't come from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea, then you are likely to have just the regular flu. Certainly contact your regular doctor, but I don't think you really need to be worried about Ebola at this point," Harp said, vowing to keep the people of New Haven, as well as the state, informed as she learns more.

Salovey's online statement addressed questions about why students or anyone associated with Yale would travel to dangerous parts of the world.

"As an academic institution with a research and teaching mission and a long tradition of service, it is important for our clinicians and investigators to be able to go where they can put their training and expertise to the highest, best use," he said. "Some members of our community with special expertise may be called on to engage directly in order to advance knowledge and understanding, to treat the sick, or to tend to those who are displaced or suffering. If they do, I hope we will all offer gratitude and support, just as we do now for our hospitalized student."

Officials from the state Department of Public Health said "all necessary protocols are in place to ensure the patient receives proper care and that hospital patients and the public are protected."

Hospital officials said they have been "actively monitoring the Ebola virus situation" and have procedures in place to detect and isolate any patient who shows symptoms of the disease.

Before the patient developed symptoms, Malloy had already planned to hold an afternoon news conference alongside state Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen to update the state on Connecticut's precautionary measures.

Mullen said she send a letter to the state's hospitals two weeks ago outlining Ebola preparations and asked hospital officials to complete a checklist of steps to follow.

"Our hospitals are deeply committed to maintaining the highest standards of infection control and minimizing the risk of contracting any infectious diseases including Ebola... Connecticut hospitals train constantly to respond to emergency situations, and they have been  preparing for a potential Ebola occurrence, including holding drills, since it first became a possibility in the U.S.," officials from the Connecticut Hospital Association said in a statement Thursday.

There have been three confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all of which were in Dallas, Texas.

Most recently, a Dallas nurse tested positive for Ebola after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a patient who died of the disease at a Dallas hospital. She arrived on Wednesday evening at the Atlanta hospital where two other Americans have recovered from the virus.

Duncan, a 45-year-old welder from Liberia, was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil after traveling from Liberia to Dallas to visit family.

Another Dallas nurse who became infected with Ebola was upgraded to good condition on Tuesday and remained good Wednesday, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas said. She will be transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Symptoms of Ebola, according to the CDC:

  • Fever (greater than 101.5°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal/stomach pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
  • Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.

People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, according to the CDC.

United Way's 211 line is also providing information on Ebola on its Web site.

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