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Duke University patient tests negative for Ebola, remains in isolation

A patient in an isolation ward at Duke University Hospital has tested negative for Ebola after developing a fever after a trip to Liberia, North Carolina state public health officials announced Monday morning.

Officials said the patient will remain in isolation while the first test result, which is considered preliminary, is confirmed by follow-up testing. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the patient, who was not identified, had no known exposure to Ebola and had no other symptoms besides the fever.

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The patient arrived from Liberia at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday, traveled to Person County in northern North Carolina Saturday and developed the fever Sunday, the department said in a statement. The patient's transfer to Duke University Hospital, about 30 miles south of Person County, was carried out under appropriate health and safety protocols, according to the health department.

Tests are underway to determine whether the fever was caused by another condition, the department said. The patient is being interviewed about travel and personal contacts as public health officials conduct "precautionary control measures," including monitoring anyone in contact with the patient after the fever developed.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement that public health officials have worked since July "to prepare for the possibility that a patient in North Carolina might be diagnosed with Ebola." Health officials said risk of exposure is extremely low.

"Ebola is not spread through the air, water or food – or simply by being near an infected person,'' the health department statement said. Ebola is spread only through unprotected contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person who has symptoms, or with objects such as needles that have been contaminated with the virus.

Several people in the United States have tested negative for Ebola after being placed in isolation upon arriving from countries in West Africa where the virus has spread. Public health officials have been on high alert since summer, paying close attention to anyone who has traveled to countries where people have contracted the virus.

At least five Americans have contracted Ebola after traveling to West Africa. Four have been cured. An American doctor, Craig Spencer, 33, is being treated at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York after becoming ill Oct. 23 after working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea. His doctors said Saturday that he was stable and responding well to treatment. A Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted Ebola in that country, died at a Dallas hospital Oct. 8.

National nervousness about the disease has led to several false alarms across the U.S., with subsequent tests showing the patients did not have Ebola. Another scare occurred Friday in Oregon, where a woman was hospitalized. Officials said Saturday that she is at low risk for Ebola.

Nearly 5,000 people have died of Ebola during the current outbreak since December, according to the World Health Organization. Most cases have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

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