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Dallas Health Officials Lower Ebola 'Contact Traces' To 50

Health officials say they have halved the number of people they are actively monitoring for symptoms of Ebola after possible contact with a patient with the disease being treated in Dallas. They lowered the number of so-called "contact traces" from 100 to 50 after deciding that many posed of the people posed no risk of infection.

Dr. Mark Lakey, of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Thomas Eric Duncan is being treated after being diagnosed with Ebola earlier this week, said it is now believed that about 50 individuals "need to be followed on a daily basis."

Lakey said of those, about 10 are considered slightly higher risk because of closer contact with the patient, who apparently contracted the disease in Liberia before traveling to the U.S. He said that so far, all those being monitored are "doing well" and not showing symptoms.

Dr. Beth Bell, director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control, says the contact traces will be monitored for 21 days "because that's the longest it takes for symptoms of Ebola to appear.

"We have a very low bar for deciding to follow patients," Bell said, adding that the CDC and other health officials "have a low-level of concern about these people we are tracing."

Meanwhile, a hazardous-materials crew was dispatched Friday to an apartment where Duncan had stayed to collect bed sheets and towels he may have used, The Associated Press says.

According to the AP: "The family living in the apartment has been confined to their home under armed guard while public-health officials monitor them — part of an intense effort to contain the deadly disease before it can get a foothold in the United States."

Update at 5:22 p.m. ET. U.S. Outbreak Unlikely:

During a briefing with reporters on Friday, Obama administration officials sought to assure Americans that the United States has protocols and facilities in place to control an Ebola outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was "convinced" that "the system that is in place... would make it extraordinarily unlikely that we would have an outbreak."

Lisa Monaco, a White House Homeland Security adviser, said that Ebola outbreaks had been contained in the past.

"We know how to do this and we will do it again," Monaco said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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