Sacramento patient tests negative for ebola

Aug 22, 2014

This week, a hospital patient in Sacramento waited in isolation for the results of an ebola blood test. Late last night, the California Department of Public Health announced that the results are in, and they are negative.

Over the past few days, the situation has drawn national attention and Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that it has raised questions about the level of threat, if any, ebola poses for the U.S. and here locally in Northern Nevada.

Dr. Jim Wilson is a national expert of infectious diseases, including ebola. He just started working for the University of Nevada, Reno to set up a statewide infectious disease forecasting center and he describes the level of risk ebola brings to the United States this way: "extremely low."

That being said, there was this week's suspect case in Sacramento.

Wilson is not surprised the case popped up in Northern California, given the state's population of immigrants from West Africa. Little information about the individual has been released, so it's unclear if the person is an immigrant or someone who visited West Africa to see family or conduct business.

Despite all the unknowns, experts were expecting the test results to come back as they did: negative.

But Wilson says even if the threat has been minimal, this scenario must prompt a larger conversation.

"It should highlight the need here in Nevada to really begin that discussion," he explains, "about preparedness and understanding what to do with a suspect case in emergency departments in the hospital setting."

Wilson is encouraging local hospitals and health departments to review the CDC's guidelines for safely using protective gear, like body suits and masks.

When advising individuals, Wilson tells them to only embark on essential travel to the affected countries and to be aware that if conditions continue to deteriorate, air traffic in West Africa could be compromised at some point, which would trap visitors within that region.

Right now, he is also working with the Northern Nevada International Center to create a crisis management plan in case any UNR students display ebola-like symptoms.

According to the CDC, the ebola outbreak in West Africa has caused more than 1,300 deaths in that region of the country.