KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A man in his 40s, who complained of a high fever and other serious Ebola-like symptoms, contacted and then entered The University of Kansas Hospital around 6 a.m. on Monday. The hospital says the patient recently worked as a medical officer on a commercial ship off the west coast of Africa and has a low-to-moderate risk of Ebola.
The patient is being kept in strict isolation and tests are being done to determine a diagnosis. Dr. Lee Norman, chief medical officer of the hospital, says there are many other diseases that fit the patient’s symptoms, but the hospital is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to determine whether the patient has Ebola or not. Doctors expect blood samples to be returned by 5 or 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The patient, a Kansas City, Kan., resident had been on the medical ship as recently as four-to-five days ago according to Dr. Norman.
“He did have an interesting story to tell,” Norman said. “He came from a ship, actually, off the west coast and — west central Africa. He is a medic, who has been involved in the treatment of patients that were air-evac’d from the mainland of Africa onto the ship that he was on.”
Norman said it’s unclear if the medic treated anyone with Ebola.
“He was very forthcoming and saying he’d been taking care of patients from the areas that are known to have Ebola,” Norman said. “He said on his ship he didn’t know of any patients with Ebola, but then again, he didn’t have any way to test for Ebola.”
The patient reportedly suffered from diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and general fatigue. Dr. Norman says he’s lost a lot of weight due to dehydration, but showed signs of improvement after being treated and given IV fluids on Monday.
Doctors are encouraged that the patient hasn’t worsened during the course of his stay. He shows normal levels of hemoglobin and other blood counts and hasn’t shown any evidence of hemorrhaging, which is commonly associated with Ebola.
Prior leaving the ship the medic suffered some symptoms.
“He had been sick before he left the ship with diarrhea, high fevers, general achiness, nausea, vomiting, chills. And, upon arrival to this country, he got a little bit better, in terms of his overall symptoms, but yesterday felt just so wiped out that he decided to come in and be seen,” Norman said.
The patient is being cared for by a team of six health professionals at all times, who will not treat other patients until a diagnosis and treatment plans are completed. The hospital says that regardless of a diagnosis, this patient does not pose a health risk to other patients, staff or visitors at the hospital. In addition to being in an area with its own ventilation system, all bedding and waste is isolated from regular hospital material due to guidelines from the CDC and state of Kansas.
We’ll continue to follow this story and provide updates on Tuesday as more information is confirmed.