Officials: Little risk of Ebola outbreak in US

Officials: Little risk of Ebola outbreak in US

Posted: Updated:
(European Commission DG ECHO/Flickr) (European Commission DG ECHO/Flickr)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

U.S. health officials are monitoring the Ebola outbreak in Africa but say the risk of the deadly germ spreading to the United States is remote.

They call it "The Tower," where Rush University Medical Center recently built a state-of-the-art infectious disease facility. It could prove vital if someone sick with Ebola ever gets to Chicago.

Doctors, though, say they have many more defenses against an outbreak than exist in West Africa, where two Americans -- Christian medical missionaries Nancy Writebol and Indiana University graduate Dr. Kent Brantley -- fell gravely ill after treating patients with Ebola.

“It is frightening…I know he was working closely with patients. I don't know what type of personal protective equipment he had available or not available to him…It's exposure to blood products or infective bodily secretions. That's where you're going to catch it from,” said Dr. Dino Rumoro, Chairman of Rush Center for Advanced Emergency Response.

Experts said Ebola is generally transmitted by direct contact and not through the air.

Calling the risk of infection in the U.S. "low," the Centers for Disease Control did issue a Level 2 health alert, asking medical workers in the country to be vigilant for symptoms of Ebola among recent travelers to West Africa.

Symptoms include fever, diarrhea and vomiting.

“We have to be concerned about the spread of disease in a world where we're literally 12 hours apart on a plane ride,” said Senator Dick Durbin.

Dr. Kent Brantley, the Indiana U. Medical School grad now gravely ill after treating West Africans who died of Ebola, talked briefly by telephone with a former colleague Tuesday.

“He wants everyone to understand that he knew when he went to Liberia that there were many diseases there for which there are no immunizations and for which there are no cures,” the colleague said.

While Rush University Medical Center's infectious disease facility is Chicago's newest, doctors there said many other local hospitals are well-equipped to cope should they receive a patient with Ebola.

They all hope, though, it never happens.

There are no travel restrictions to the West Africa region hit by the disease. But last month, the CDC issued a mid-level travel advisory for health workers.

Officials stressed people are not contagious until they show symptoms.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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