A man who recently traveled to a West African country combating an Ebola virus outbreak has been quarantined at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.
Hospital officials emphasized in a news conference Monday evening that they were placing the man in isolation as a precaution. They stressed that it was more likely that the patient didn't have the Ebola virus and that people who had come into casual contact with him -- including those in the emergency department -- were not at risk of being infected.
Sid Dinsay, a spokesman for the hospital, had said earlier that Monday morning "a male patient with high fever and gastrointestinal symptoms" came to the hospital's emergency department.
"The patient had recently traveled to a West African country where Ebola has been reported," Dinsay said.
He said the patient "has been placed in strict isolation and is undergoing medical screenings to determine the cause of his symptoms."
Dr. Jeremy Boal, chief medical officer for Mount Sinai, said it was more likely that the patient had "another, more common virus."
He and Mount Sinai's president, Dr. David Reich, said the staff at the hospital had been preparing for the possibility of such an occurrence and were well equipped to handle his care.
They said specimens from the patient had been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and results were expected in 24 to 48 hours.
An Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone has already claimed the lives of 887 people, according to the CDC.
Ebola is often fatal, with a mortality rate of up to 90 percent, according to the World Health Organization, and it is one of the world's most virulent diseases.
The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people.
Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.
Mount Sinai officials said the hospital was working closely with federal, state and city health officials.
They would not discuss where the man had traveled, when he had returned to the United States or any other identifying characteristics.
The CDC said Ebola poses "no significant risk" for people in this country. The agency said that people who have been exposed to Ebola virus disease should not travel on commercial airplanes until they have been monitored for symptoms of illness for 21 days after exposure. Sick travelers should delay any trips until cleared by a doctor or public health authority.
Eyes are on Africa
Nevertheless, federal agents at U.S. airports are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the outbreak, as delegations from some 50 countries arrive in Washington for a leadership summit this week.
Border patrol agents at Kennedy Airport and Washington's Dulles International Airport have been told to ask travelers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes.
In Nigeria, the doctor who treated a man who later died of Ebola now has contracted the disease, authorities said.
As Nigerian health authorities rushed to quarantine others who had been exposed to the doctor, a special plane landed in Liberia to evacuate the second American missionary who fell ill with Ebola. Nancy Writebol, 59, is expected to arrive in Atlanta Tuesday, where she will be treated at a special isolation ward.
A U.S. government health official told Bloomberg News that an experimental drug called ZMapp was being used to treat the two U.S. workers. The drug was developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., based in San Diego.