State public health officials are calling a Sacramento patient being tested for Ebola a "low-risk" case in an effort to ease fears that the disease may have landed in California for the first time.
An unidentified patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is currently being treated at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center, officials announced Tuesday.
The person is being held in a specially equipped negative pressure room, Dr. Stephen Parodi, infectious diseases specialist at the hospital, said in a statement, and all precautionary steps are being taken to prevent any potential spread.
State health officials say a blood sample taken from the patient was sent to a CDC lab in Atlanta for testing yesterday, and that they expect the results in about three days.
In the meantime, officials are trying to assuage fears that Ebola might spread on the West Coast.
"We believe the risk of the spread of Ebola in California is extremely low," said Dr. Gil Chavez, the state epidemiologist and deputy director of the California Department of Public Health, in a call with reporters Wednesday. "Ebola does not presently pose a public health risk to California."
Chavez reiterated that no other possible Ebola patients have been identified in California besides the Sacramento case, and that state and local health officials have been preparing for weeks to put protocols in place in case such a patient emerged.
"We were not surprised at all. We knew it was a matter of time before we had a patient in California. California is a place with much international exposure and travel," Chavez said. Low-risk patients like the one in Sacramento, Chavez said, will be tested "out of an abundance of caution."
If Ebola cases do emerge in California, health officials say, the state's health systems and protocols are equipped to contain it. Hospitals in California are required to be able to isolate patients with infectious diseases, said Dr. James Watt, head of the Division of Communicable Disease Control with the state Department of Public Health.
State officials are also coordinating with a small number of public health laboratories in California that may be made available to do future testing to speed up the process of confirming Ebola cases.
Officials at Kaiser and the state health department declined to provide any information about the patient's name, age, gender or even when the person was admitted to the hospital, citing privacy issues. They also declined to say whether the person had recently traveled to West Africa.
Chavez said that local health officials have already begun to identify people who may have come into close contact with the patient and made them aware of the symptoms in case the patient tests positive for Ebola.