Frieden said the patient, whom he described as “critically ill,” left Liberia on Sept. 19 and entered the U.S. the next day to visit family members. Officials did not disclose the nationality or residence of the patient or whether he was exposed to the disease as an aid worker. The patient displayed no symptoms while traveling, Frieden said. The patient began feeling sick around Sept. 24, sought treatment on Sept. 26 and was admitted to Texas Health on Sept. 28.
Dr. David Lakey, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, that laboratory blood tests came back positive at 1:22 p.m. He added that there were no other suspected cases in the state.
Frieden declined to say how many people may have been exposed to the virus through contact with the patient, saying only that investigators are monitoring a “handful” of people. Frieden said that the risk to the public was minimal and that he was confident that the virus would be contained.
“The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country,” Frieden said. “It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual, a family member or another individual, could develop Ebola in the coming weeks, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”
Speaking before a House panel on Aug. 7, Frieden said it was “inevitable” that an Ebola-infected traveler from West Africa would turn up in a U.S. emergency department.
“We are all connected, and inevitably there will be travelers—American citizens and others—who go from these three countries, or from Lagos if it doesn't get it under control, and are here with symptoms,” Frieden said. “And those symptoms might be Ebola or something else, so we're having to deal with Ebola in the U.S. in a way that we've never had to deal with it before.”
Last month, the agency reported receiving more than 68 calls since July of possible Ebola cases across the country. Since that time, about a dozen people have been tested for the virus.
More than 6,500 cases have been reported as of Sept. 23, according to the World Health Organization. About 3,098 have died from the disease, and health workers have been been unable to contain it. It continues to spread throughout the Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal.
The CDC recently said that as any as 1.4 million people could be infected by January if relief efforts were not escalated.
Health officials said they would continue to monitor healthcare workers who came in contact with the patient for the possibility of infection.
Texas Health epidemiologist Dr. Edward Goodman said the hospital had a robust infectious-disease control system. Just before admitting the Ebola patient, hospital leaders held a meeting about how they would handle a case of the virus.
“We have had a plan in place for some time now in the event of a patient presenting with possible Ebola,” Goodman said. “We were well prepared to deal with crisis.”
Four American aid workers have been transported in recent months from Africa to the U.S. to be treated at facilities with special isolation capabilities.
The U.S. has seen five imported cases of other viral hemorrhagic fever diseases like Ebola, including four cases of Lassa fever and one case of Marburg fever, none of which resulted in any transmission in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson