An American who was exposed to the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone was admitted Sunday to a National Institutes of Health clinic in Maryland, the agency announced.
The patient, a physician who was exposed to the virus while volunteering in the African country, arrived at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda around 4 p.m. Eastern, the NIH said in a statement.
NIH spokesman John Burklow told The Times that the patient was expected to join a research protocol whose objective is "to apply standardized, documented, and carefully monitored evaluation and treatment methods for bioterrorism- and biodefense-related illnesses and emerging infectious disease."
Health officials declined to identify the patient. The NIH statement did not suggest that the patient had developed any symptoms of Ebola.
"Out of an abundance of caution, the patient has been admitted to the NIH Clinical Center's special clinical studies unit that is specifically designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious diseases and critical care specialists," the statement said.
It said staffers at the unit are trained in strict practices designed to prevent the spread of diseases such as Ebola.
So far this year, four Americans -- two missionary doctors, a third missionary and an unidentified person -- have contracted Ebola while working in West Africa and have been flown to the U.S. for treatment. Hospitals in Nebraska and Georgia have cared for them, and at least three of the patients have recovered.
The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest and deadliest in recorded history. As of Friday, the World Health Organization has officially reported 6,242 cases of the disease, and 2,909 deaths. Of those fatalities, at least 181 involved healthcare workers.
The virus has no cure, but early treatment of symptoms is believed to improve the chances of survival.
Times staff writers Kurtis Lee and Monte Morin contributed to this report.