Nine people in Birmingham being monitored after possible Ebola exposure – by Adam Ganucheau

A patient exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms was admitted to University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital Tuesday night, and eight others are being quarantined or monitored after coming into contact with that patient.

Officials said the patient is considered “at low risk” for having the disease, but multiple agencies are taking necessary precautions. The patient will be tested for Ebola tonight, and the results of the test should be released tomorrow.  

“We had a situation today in which somebody who had recently traveled to a country where there are still some active cases of Ebola had been returned to the U.S.,” Jefferson County Medical Director Edward Khan said. “This person would fit into our low-risk category, meaning they did not come into contact with any known Ebola cases while over there, and they didn’t participate in any high-risk activities such as burial ceremonies or health care work.”

Two Birmingham rescue workers who came into contact with the patient were also taken to UAB Hospital, where they are being quarantined overnight.

Two family members of the initial patient have been asked by officials to remain inside their home in the 1600 block of 17th Street SW overnight, Birmingham police Lt. Joe Roberts said. Roberts said police would be guarding the home Tuesday night.

Additionally, four other Birmingham emergency responders were quarantined outside the home and later taken to a firehouse inside the Birmingham city limits, where they will remain overnight for monitoring.

Multiple streets near the home were completely closed to traffic until about 11 p.m.

At the hospital Tuesday night, multiple emergency vehicles, including Birmingham Fire and Rescue Services’ decontamination unit, were stationed on the back side of the UAB Hospital emergency room. The entire 500 block of 19th Street South was closed for about an hour starting at 8:15 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were advised of the situation, officials said Tuesday night.

“At the county level, we communicate with the state (department of health),” Khan said. “The state is aware, and we’re running appropriate tests. The CDC has been notified.”

Khan said the patient, whose identity has not been released, will be tested for Ebola Tuesday night, and the results of the test will be released sometime Wednesday.

Many details remained unreleased Tuesday night in order to protect the patient’s identity, officials said.

It is still unknown what country the patient visited, but Khan said both the patient and UAB Hospital were monitoring the patient’s temperature twice a day and watching for Ebola-like symptoms, which is standard protocol after an American has visited an Ebola-stricken country.

It is also unclear how the rescue workers came into contact with the patient, but Khan said the hospital was aware of the Ebola-like symptoms before the patient arrived Tuesday night.

“This person did develop some symptoms today and called us right away,” Khan said. “We notified appropriate agencies to have this person evaluated.”

Officials, including UAB Senior Vice President for Inpatient Services Anthony Patterson, said no hospital officials were directly exposed to the patient, and there is no known public health risk at this time.

“We have a large group of employees who have been training for a year, preparing for the event a patient (with Ebola-like symptoms) is in the hospital,” Patterson said. “We were prepared for this.”

Earlier this summer, Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital was placed on alert after a patient presented with Ebola-like symptoms. After further evaluation, the patient was found not to have the disease, which presents with symptoms such as fever, fatigue, weakness, joint and muscle pain, reddened eyes, headache and nausea and vomiting.

There have been no diagnosed cases of Ebola in Alabama. reporter Melissa Brown contributed to this report.

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