Ebola tests are negative for Carolinas Medical Center patient

Carolinas Medical Center
Carolinas Medical Center mhames@charlotteobserver.com

A man who recently traveled from Liberia is being treated at Carolinas Medical Center for symptoms similar to those caused by Ebola virus infection, but hospital officials said Tuesday night that tests for the disease were negative.

The patient, who had been placed in isolation, will be moved into a regular hospital room to continue treatment, Carolinas HealthCare Systems, CMC’s owner, said in a statement. The man has not been publicly identified.

Before the test results were released, health officials took precautions to protect the public but said it was unlikely Ebola would be confirmed.

“This situation is extremely low risk. We do not really suspect Ebola,” Dr. Stephen Keener, the Health Department’s medical director, said earlier Tuesday.

The patient, who arrived in the United States April 17, had been contacted daily by county health nurses who checked to see if he had developed a temperature or other symptoms.

His fever was detected Monday while he was being treated for a separate medical problem at an outpatient clinic. Dr. Katie Passaretti, medical director for infection prevention at Carolinas HealthCare System, said the patient was immediately isolated and transferred to CMC, where he was also placed in isolation. Those who cared for him before the test results were returned wore protective gear.

“Our collaboration with the county and state health departments and our pre-established infectious disease protocols were followed successfully,” Carolinas HealthCare System said in a statement Tuesday night.

About 20 health care workers had been in contact with the patient, and they had been monitored, Passaretti said. But she said they “didn’t have any high-risk exposure to blood and bodily fluids.”

The patient was being treated for an “underlying medical condition” that officials would not disclose. That condition, or one of many other infectious diseases, could have been causing the patient’s fever, Passaretti said. She said the patient had “no high-risk exposure in Liberia” that would lead her to believe he contracted Ebola.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has centered on three countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. But since March 22, no new cases have been reported in Liberia.

Since October, Keener said the Health Department has monitored about 150 people who have traveled to Mecklenburg from West Africa. None developed Ebola, but a group of missionaries from SIM USA were quarantined for 21 days on the organization’s south Charlotte campus when they returned from Liberia last summer.

Among them was David Writebol, husband of Nancy Writebol, one of the first two Americans who contracted Ebola. She and Dr. Kent Brantly, also a missionary, were evacuated in August from Liberia to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, where they both recovered. Last month, the Writebols returned to Liberia for a visit, and they plan to return again to continue their mission work.

Garloch: 704-358-5078