Brazil announced its first suspected case of Ebola on Friday, a warning that is likely to alarm U.S. officials who are worried about the ability of some of the two countries’ neighbors to contain an outbreak of the deadly disease.
A 47-year-old man from Guinea who arrived in Brazil on Sept. 19 was admitted to an emergency care unit in the southern state of Parana on Thursday with a fever, a common symptom of Ebola, Brazil’s Health Minister Arthur Chioro said.
The man, identified in news reports as Souleymane Bah, was later transferred to Rio de Janeiro in a Brazilian Air Force plane and by ambulance to the Evandro Chagas National Institute for Infectious Diseases.
The patient now has no fever or other common symptoms of Ebola, such as diarrhea or vomiting, Chioro said. But he was being treated as a “suspected case” because he sought care 21 days after leaving Guinea, the maximum known incubation period for the virus. Test results are expected Saturday.
Officials said they had identified 64 people who had contact with the patient and will monitor them for symptoms of Ebola.
They are considered to be at low risk of infection. The virus is spread only through contact with the bodily fluids of patients who have developed symptoms, Chioro said.
News that the Ebola virus may have spread to Brazil came as the estimated death toll from the worst outbreak on record topped 4,000, according to figures released Friday by the World Health Organization. As of Wednesday, nearly 8,400 suspected or confirmed Ebola cases had been reported in seven countries.
The epidemic was first detected in Guinea in March and quickly spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Cases have also been reported in Nigeria, Senegal, the United States and Spain.
The WHO has warned that more Ebola cases are likely to surface outside Africa because of the ease and frequency of modern travel.
The top U.S. commander for Central and South America warned this week that many Western countries aren’t equipped to deal with the disease.
If the virus reaches countries such as Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, it could send people fleeing north, U.S. Marine Gen. John Kelly said in remarks at the National Defense University in Washington.
“If it breaks out, it’s literally, ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” said Kelly, chief of the U.S. Southern Command, according to a Pentagon summary of his comments. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is on a six-day trip to Colombia, Chile and Peru, during which he said he would discuss the growing threat of Ebola with regional leaders.
Special correspondent Bevins reported from Sao Paulo and Times staff writer Zavis from Los Angeles.
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