CDC Confirms First Ebola Case In The United States

For the first time, someone has been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

Ebola Virus

The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States is being treated at a hospital in Dallas after becoming ill several days after returning from a trip to western Africa:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the first case of Ebola that’s been diagnosed in the United States.

“An individual traveling from Liberia has been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States,” Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

This person left Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in the U.S. the following day. The person had no symptoms when they arrived, but began developing symptoms several days after arriving in the United States.

“The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this importation, or this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country,” he said. “It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks. But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”

Health officials are going to work to identify everyone who may have been exposed to this patient, Frieden said. They will be watched for three weeks to see if any symptoms emerge.

“Remember, Ebola does not spread from someone who’s not infectious,” Frieden said. “It does not spread from someone who does not have a fever or other symptoms.”

David Lakey, head of the Texas Department of Health Services, said during the same call the state’s laboratory in Austin, Tex., was certified last month to do Ebola testing. That laboratory received a blood sample from the patient on Tuesday morning and confirmed it was Ebola shortly after 1 p.m., he said.

Health officials speaking on Tuesday repeatedly stressed that Ebola does not spread easily.

“Ebola is not transmitted by the air,” Edward Goodman, the hospital epidemiologist at Texas Health Presybterian Hospital Dallas, said during the call. “It is not an airborne infection.”

In addition to the general health of the patient and the prospects for his recovery, the biggest question here is quite obviously going to be the extent to which he may have exposed others to the disease before being identified by health officials. In that respect, it is important to recognize that Ebola can only be spread via contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is already displaying symptoms of the disease, unlike the flu and other viruses it cannot be spread via the air or by casual contact such as shaking hands with someone who may have the virus in them but not infectious. According to a press conference that is still going on as I write this, the patient was apparently not ill at the time he was flying from Liberia to the United States on September 19th and 20th, so the risk that people on the airplane with him were exposed to the disease seems pretty low. Despite that, one imagines that there will be at leas some follow-up with the passengers on the flight to determine if any of them are exhibiting symptoms. Given that, the primary focus for public health workers is likely to be the people that this person may have had contact with after he first started feeling ill. So far at least, it would appear that he may have only had close contact with members of his family in the Dallas area, but that’s obviously something that will likely be the subject of strict scrutiny and inquiry over the coming days. Generally, if there’s any suspicion that people may have been exposed to Ebola, standard procedure involves placing them in quarantine for 21 days or longer and monitoring them to see if they develop symptoms. If none of these people develop symptoms, then they would be released since the incubation period would have passed. That, for example, is the procedure that was followed in Nigeria that I wrote about early today.  The trick there, of course, is to make sure you get to as many of the people he was in contact with as possible.

For obvious reasons, the public health officials at the CDC are doing their best to downplay the risks to the general public, but this is obviously going to cause widespread public concern thanks in no small part to the coverage this will receive on cable news and elsewhere. This case shouldn’t be dismissed, of course, but at the same time it’s worth recognizing that Ebola is not like the Common Cold or the Flu and that it can only be spread by very specific means. Assuming that the CDC and other public health officials can track down everyone that this person has potentially had conflict with, which admittedly be a difficult thing depending on what he did during the time between arriving in the United States and reporting to the hospital, then containing the disease would be relatively straightforward. All that being said, though, these kinds of assurances aren’t necessarily going to reassure a public that is going to be understandably scared about a disease that has ravaged western Africa for months now.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Health, National Security, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. superdestroyer says:

    Image being a senior executive for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and realizing that a single careless employee could not only spread Ebola through your facility but also put your company out of business. Do Americans have the discipline to follow all of the rules and procedures to prevent the spread of Ebola or are we going to depend on the other guy.

  2. Tillman says:

    Well, I’ve read the entire post, and I can only conclude that we are all going to die.

  3. beth says:

    @Tillman: Thanks a lot Obama.

  4. @superdestroyer:

    Emory University Hospital didn’t have any problems like that when they were dealing with the two American doctors who were exposed to Ebola in the U.S. and ultimately cured of the disease

  5. superdestroyer says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Emory University Hospital has had long term contact with the CDC and was always the hospital where the people with Level IV diseases were going to do. I doubt if Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is much above average. Maybe the patient will be quickly transferred to Emory.

  6. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Very true, but Emory knew it was getting Ebola patients, and could take advance precautions. If the Dallas patient was sitting around the ER for a while before being diagnosed, the disease could have spread to someone else. I hope not, but it’s a possibility that has to be considered.

  7. James says:

    @superdestroyer: You do realize that the safety precautions are basically the same as hepatitis and less than tuberculosis? I’m sure they’ll do fine

  8. anjin-san says:


    I’m pretty sure Mexican ISIS shock trooper 11 year old Muslim socialist drug mules are to blame. Why oh why did we ignore your warnings?

  9. @CSK:

    Oh I don’t disagree with that, and it’s certainly a concern. Hopefully, the CDC’s ground team, which is apparently already on the way to Dallas, will be on top of that part of the case.

  10. @anjin-san:

    I’m already seeing people on Twitter and Facebook arguing that this is an argument for restricting immigration and barring every flight to the U.S. that originates in western Africa.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    Dallas? It’s not Jerry Jones is it ?

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    I say let the market take care of it. This isn’t a time for government to step in.

  13. @C. Clavin:

    I was going to say that Tony Romo passed it on, but if he tried to do that it would just be intercepted.

  14. Tyrell says:

    Whoa! It wasn’t that long ago that we were being told that this could not happen, that all the safe guards were in place that would keep possible carriers out: “remote” , “highly unlikely” , “no serious possibility” , “not in a million years”. There needs to be an investigation. Who approved this person to come into this country? There needs to be stronger limits on who gets into the country. Anyone who has been in those ebola countries should not even be allowed in until they are cleared. And just thinking about our border security is enough to cause nightmares, especially in a time when people are jumping over the White House fence like it is a primary school playground.
    Another shocking, scary headline !

  15. C. Clavin says:

    Leap in’ lizards…Don’t be so scared.
    You need to stop listening to the right-wing entertainment complex.
    You’re gonna have a heart attack.

  16. beth says:

    @Tyrell: Cheer up. There’s a much greater chance that you’ll die from the flu this winter than you’ll catch Ebola.

  17. PAUL HOOSON says:

    The rise of plagues like this, and the world being challenged by shadowy and violent terrorists is renewing my belief in Bible prophecy – And I’m a Jew and not a fundamentalist Christian!

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Nigeria has managed to contain Ebola. Take a moment and think about that.

    Nigeria, a country with corruption so rife it’s as wide-spread as gravity; a country whose main occupation is stealing its own oil; a country where roughly 95% of the population has already written me at one point or another with an offer to make me rich, rich beyond my wildest dreams because I am known to be a man of honor who can certainly be trusted to help out a deposed general/warlord/wizard.

    So I kind of think we’ll manage it as well.

  19. michael reynolds says:


    I understand that impressive facial hair provides some immunity.

  20. wr says:

    Ebola in America is scary.

    But no matter how much it spreads, it can’t do as much damage to the nation as the “Tea Party” already has.

  21. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: Actually I have been observing and noticing most of these apocalyptic “breaking news” headlines on CNN. Be that as it may, I am going to follow your advice and maybe do some reading, bike riding, and attending some local school soccer instead of watching these sorts of news programs. Thanks.

  22. lounsbury says:

    @superdestroyer: I presume you do not think your Texan hospitals are grotesquely less competent than Nigerian hospitals. If not, then yes, trivially easily so.

    @Tyrell: Presuming you have some minimal joined up reading skills, your hysterical fear of the foreign is doubtless confusing “not possible to see a major outbreak of Ebola” in any developed (or even developing but not grotesquely incompetent country [i.e. not Liberia]), insofar as no magical system exists to prevent single non-symptomatic carriers from boarding a plane, landing and passing non-symptomatically through passport control.

    Bloody hell you lot are a bunch of whinging chicken little pants-wetters over nothing at all.

  23. @michael reynolds:

    Nigeria has managed to contain Ebola. Take a moment and think about that.

    That’s only because they had all those rich princes to help pay for the containment effort.

  24. HelloWorld! says:

    So lets hope that whatever unregulated waste disposal company that takes care of that hospital doesn’t dump this guys waste where a small fury animal can get into it and spread it to other animals before crossing over into humans again.

  25. Tillman says:

    @HelloWorld!: Dump? Waste? Ho ho ho. No, no, this is one of those “kill it with fire” situations. Anything that comes out of that guy’s body during his quarantine is going straight in front of a cadre of flamethrowers.

    It’s official CDC policy, I believe.

  26. michael reynolds says:


    That’s it! Game over, man! Game over! What the f**k are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do? We’re on an express elevator to hell; going down!

  27. C. Clavin says:

    Luckily if anyone else contracts this in Texas they won’t get to their Dr. because no one there has insurance. Well not no one. Just more than any other state. So we ‘re good.

  28. PAUL HOOSON says:

    @michael reynolds: It also keeps me in good standing in the biker community. Many people don’t realize it, but some of the fictional SONS OF ANARCHY members are Jews or played by Jewish actors, or gentile actors playing Jews.

  29. Dave D says:

    @HelloWorld!: I’m sure the chimps, gorillas and fruit bats naturally infesting the great Republic of Texas have nothing better than to eat that waste and live to pass it on or serve as a reservoir for the next outbreak. GOD HELP US ALL>

  30. bill says:

    @CSK: and we don’t know where the patient was spreading his stuff around before he made it to the er. apparently he was able to contract it in west africa (knowing full well that it’s there and spreading) and still travel abroad and bring his sickness with him to America. oh well, no big deal- obamacare to the rescue.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    Really, it would take so little effort to find the truth:

    1) Ebola is only spread when the patient is feverish.
    2) All flights from Liberia require temperature checks of passengers.

    Ergo, he was not a danger to other passengers.

    You can thank the UN and a bunch of NGO’s for the fact that the threat to us is so minor.

  32. Todd says:

    Watching my Facebook newsfeed, the one thing that jumps out at me about this, is how many of the people who are scared to death about the (near zero) chance that Ebola might affect them, will probably not bother (or outright refuse) to get a flu shot this year.

    This is the American way. We freak out about things that are extremely unlikely to happen, while simultaneously discounting much higher probability risks.

  33. Jeremy R says:


    oh well, no big deal- obamacare to the rescue.

    I assume you meant that in jest, but it raises a good point. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, which is plainly a bad thing when it comes to Texans having their symptoms checked out as early as possible. Their number of uninsured would be around a million less if only Perry hadn’t blocked the ACA’s medicaid expansion (out of base partisanship).

  34. humanoid.panda says:

    @bill: It takes a special kind of a lunatic to think that a possible outbreak of a deadly disease is an argument AGAINST universal health insurance. Really, there are some feats of logic only the current crop of American conservatives are capable of.

  35. Tyrell says:

    @PAUL HOOSON: It is simply amazing and shocking: six of the seven major Biblical prophesies have been fulfilled ! Next week on October 8 will be the second of the four “blood” moons tetrad, mentioned in the Bible, affirmed by NASA ! An excellent book about this is “The Four Blood Moons” book, by Pastor Hagee. This is a best seller and the bookstores are selling them as fast as they get them. I used to not be in the prophesy thing until I went to a Bible seminar with a friend a while back. I was simply amazed. Everything is coming together !

  36. Just Me says:

    I think what is the most concerning is that while this initial patient knows that fever and other symptoms may have been Ebola the people he may have exposed may not recognize it as such and may expose more people before seeking medical attention. Hopefully the list of exposures is small and the CDC can control this.

    How much authority does the CDC have to insist in a quarantine? I do think a lot of Americans would refuse to be quarantined for 21 days.

  37. superdestroyer says:


    There were 721,000 infections of patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities in 2011. Hospitals are a dangerous place for patients since many of them die from infections they get while there. Hospitals try numerous ways to limit the spread of infection but all it takes is one employee who does not follow procedures.

    Also, I think Emory took a few more precautions with their Ebola patient than with a hepatitis or tuberculosis patient

    How well will a community hospital do trying to care for a patient while their staff is in Hazmat Level C?

  38. superdestroyer says:


    I have always found it odd that progressive who worry about the 1 in a million risk from environmental pollution will not get a flu shot. but then again, how many people who claim to worry about an oil pipeline n Nebraska do not get a flu shot, drink to excess, or smoke?

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:


    It wasn’t that long ago that we were being told that this could not happen,

    Who told you that? I never heard any such thing and common sense says it can go anywhere. How could you be so gullible?

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Anybody who quotes “Aliens” is OK in my book.

  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Todd: You mean like the chances of being shot with one’s own gun?

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell: Whew! I better find Jesus and quick… Anybody seen him lately?

  43. C. Clavin says:

    1 in a minion risk from environmental pollution?
    Millions die prematurely every year from exposure to air pollution.
    Buy a dog, name it Clue , and then you will have one.

  44. C. Clavin says:

    Biblical prophesies?
    You mean this rain is going to last for 40 days?

  45. gVOR08 says:

    Don’t sweat ebola. As I’ve said before in the context of terrorism, it’s your diet that’s going to kill you.

  46. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    A cite would be helpful. The EPA standard for clean up under CERLA is 1 in a million risk. And in reality, the number of people who dies from air pollution in the U.S. has been going down for decades due to regulatory control and de-industrialization. Of course, what most environmentalist fail to under is that the worst thing you can do for a person’s health is make them poor. Something the ultra-greens fail to understand.

  47. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Of course, what most environmentalist fail to under is that the worst thing you can do for a person’s health is make them poor.

    You seem to think there is a link between a clean environment and poverty, which is really kind of funny as we like to put our dirtiest industries in our poorest neighborhoods.

  48. C. Clavin says:

    Being a Conservative, I tend towards the 2 million number.

    the worst thing you can do for a person’s health is make them poor.

    So that’s why Republicans have been waging war on the middle-class for 30 some years?

    air pollution in the U.S. has been going down for decades due to regulatory control and de-industrialization.

    So that’s why Republicans are intent on eliminating regulations?

    Interesting…Republicans are on a mission to increase pollution and make people poorer…while taking away their health care.
    I mean…I knew it…but have never seen all the dots linked together like this by one of the dupes. Thanks.

  49. C. Clavin says:

    Some perspective from E. Klein…

    On average, Guinea spends $32 on health care per-person, per-year. Liberia spends $65. Nigeria spends $94. The United States spends $8,895.

    Of course Rick Perry’s Texas probably falls in line with Liberia…on a scale of 100 Texas rates 31.6 which is dead last (pun intended) in the US…so we may actually be in trouble here.
    Maybe we can transfer this patient to a Blue State?

  50. J-Dub says:


    the world being challenged

    It might take a plague to save the “world”. It’s humanity that’s in trouble. We are not the world, despite our egos telling us otherwise.

  51. J-Dub says:


    fury animal

    Would that be a Honey Badger?

  52. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Both the CDC and the NIH have had their budgets slashed to pay for tax cuts for the rich.
    And the Red State Hospital made a huge mistake in diagnosis.
    Thanks, Republicans.

  53. Randall says:

    @beth: I agree. Everyone needs to relax. Chances are you will have your head lopped off by a radicalized Muslim in an unfortunate incident of workplace violence before ever succumbing to Ebola.

  54. Tyrell says:

    Today: “Hospital: We Dropped the Ball” Great . That’s what we want to hear!

  55. Todd says:


    @Todd: You mean like the chances of being shot with one’s own gun?

    At risk of going down a different rabbit-hole, yes, that (along with fear of terrorism) is pretty much the same phenomena. In fact, that’s almost exactly why I don’t own a gun (even though I’m perfectly comfortable handling and shooting weapons) … there are young kids in my house. The way I see it, both the chances that I’ll ever have to shoot someone who intends to do me harm in my own house, or that one of my kids would find my weapons and hurt themselves or others, are extremely small. However, the (albeit extremely small) risk of an accident is still greater than the probability that I’ll meet a “bad guy” needing to be shot … therefore, logic dictates that I will not have a gun in my house.

    … just as, unless I’m in physical proximity to someone who is showing symptoms of Ebola, any fear I have might have about getting the disease is illogical and irrational.

  56. Jack says:

    Based upon the obesity rate in this country. I believe Americans should be more concerned with pastabola and ice creambola than ebola.

  57. Tyrell says:

    Today it came out that this man may have given false information to hospital information; stating that he did not help or treat ebola patients in Africa and this could get him in big trouble. It is apparent that the chain of procedures and precautions failed at every step. Anyone who has been in the ebola countries should be quarantined over there, not wait until they get home. The fact that he voluntarily was around so many people once he got here is particularly shocking, considering where he came from. He certainly knowed that this was improper and hazardous to the US. Attorney General Holder needs to look into possible charges. And it is even more troublesome considering the state of our borders, with people rolling in like it is a Christmas season Saturday at the mall. Not surprising in light of people jumping the White House fence like it is a middle school track event.
    Two government fiascos in one week !

  58. lounsbury says:

    @superdestroyer: So the answer is yes, you actually do think that your own hospital system is in fact less competent than Nigeria’s.

    I suppose the colour of the Presidential skin has some role to play in that.

    Or you’re simply barking mad and irrational.

  59. Grewgills says: