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Texas Health Care Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro. Officials in Texas say a health care worker in Dallas has tested positive for Ebola. The worker was treating Thomas Eric Duncan. Duncan, who had been in Liberia, died of Ebola last week. NPR's Jeff Brady joins us from Dallas. Good morning.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Good morning.

SHAPIRO: What else can you tell us about this latest case?

BRADY: The Texas Department of State Health Services says the health care worker reported a low grade fever on Friday night, and that person was isolated and then tested. Preliminary test results from a state lab in Austin came back positive for Ebola. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta will conduct a second test to confirm that.

We don't know a lot about the worker - whether they are a nurse or a doctor - only that they worked at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, and that's the hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan died last Wednesday. And right now everyone is waiting for that second test from the CDC.

SHAPIRO: We've heard so much about the steps that health care workers take to protect themselves. What can we infer from the fact that this latest patient is a care provider?

BRADY: We have been told over and over that this disease is most infectious when patients are exhibiting symptoms. It's spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone infected with the Ebola virus. And then those fluids have to find a way inside a second person through a cut, a sore or a mucous membrane. And health care workers are the people who are with patients at their most contagious stages. So their risk of infection is higher than it is for most of us.

So in that sense, it's not surprising. But health care workers also know how to protect themselves. And I think we can assume that everyone here in Texas in public health is going to be taking another look at the protective measures that health care workers are taking.

SHAPIRO: This is still breaking news, but are we seeing any reaction so far?

BRADY: From the Texas Department of State Health Services, Commissioner, also Doctor, David Lakey said, quote, we knew a second case could be a reality, and we've been preparing for this possibility. He also said that they're broadening their team in Dallas and working with diligence to prevent a further spread of the virus here in Dallas. The state also says they are doing their contact tracing. They're checking with everyone who had contact with this healthcare worker.

SHAPIRO: What are the big unanswered questions at this point?

BRADY: We hope to get answers to some big questions at a press conference that's going to happen at the hospital shortly here. One big one that I have is was this health care worker following the protocols to protect him or herself? And we also want to know if this was somebody who may have been exposed when Thomas Eric Duncan was - first showed up at the emergency room with symptoms and then was sent home with antibiotics, or was this from his second visit when he went back to the hospital after he was very ill?

SHAPIRO: And at the same time, authorities are still keeping tabs on the family of Thomas Eric Duncan. What do we know about them?

BRADY: They are still in isolation. The incubation period for the Ebola virus is 21 days. Duncan's fiancee, Louise Troh, and three family members who were in the apartment where Duncan was staying, they are being kept in isolation until October 19.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Jeff Brady in Dallas. And we will be updating this story throughout the morning. Thanks Jeff.

BRADY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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