Ebola Mortality Rate Expected to Rise as Outbreak Runs its Deadly Course

World health officials struggle to control Ebola outbreak
LONDON (Reuters) – The death rate so far in the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola is not as extreme as recorded in the past, but experts expect it to prove no less virulent in the end, once more victims succumb and the grim data is tallied up.

Latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) record 1,603 cases of Ebola in the West African outbreak and 887 deaths – giving a death rate of just over 55 percent.

That is well below the 78.5 percent average death rate over 14 past outbreaks of the same virus – called the “Zaire strain” after the former name of the Democratic Republic of Congo where it was first detected in 1976. In some outbreaks the rate was up to 90 percent, according to WHO data.

Experts say death rates for Ebola outbreaks can rise as the disease runs its course, which is what they now expect.

“This is partly a statistical thing about collecting death events, and also partly about the maturity of the outbreak,” said Derek Gatherer, a virologist at Britain’s University of Lancaster who has been following the outbreak since it started in February.

“The nearer we get to the end of the epidemic, the closer we would expect the fatality rate to correspond to the Zaire Ebola average of 80 percent,” he told Reuters.

Ebola can take up to a month to kill its victims, said Ben Neuman, an expert in viruses at Britain’s Reading University.

Already, the death rate in Guinea, where the infection was first detected, has reached 74 percent. The overall regional outbreak mortality figure is brought down by lower death rates in countries that were more recently hit: 54 percent in Liberia and around 42 percent in Sierra Leone.

“It will take a few weeks until we see the outcome of a wave of new cases like this one,” Neuman said. “(The) Ebola fatality rates look particularly low in Sierra Leone at the moment compared to Guinea, because the virus only recently arrived.”

There is still some hope that the rise in death rates can be slowed through medical care. Neuman noted that when doctors are able to begin treatment soon after infection, the survival rates from Ebola can increase significantly.

But even at 50 to 60 percent mortality, no other human disease comes close to Ebola’s ability to kill those it infects, specialists say.

The corner of West Africa stricken by Ebola is among the poorest areas in the world and government hospitals in the region often lack even basic equipment, with dirty and overcrowded rooms.

Fear of being left to die in isolation and suspicion of doctors in masks and full body protective suits is driving some patients to evade treatment altogether, meaning they can go uncounted in the data whether they live or die.

NO CURE

Ebola has no proven cures and there is no vaccine to prevent infection, so the best treatment is focused on alleviating symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea – all of which can contribute to severe dehydration.

Patients often need oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes, or intravenous fluids. Severely ill patients need intensive care.

But languishing in the bottom part of the U.N. Human Development Index, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have some of the weakest health systems in the world. This, combined with porous borders, poor sanitation and local ignorance of the disease have helped its spread.

Nigeria said on Tuesday it had eight suspected cases linked to a confirmed fatal case in a man who traveled to Lagos from Liberia last week. Saudi Arabia’s health ministry said it was also testing a suspected case in a man returning from Sierra Leone.

Two American aid workers who contracted Ebola while working in West Africa have been flown home for treatment are likely to have a better than average chance of survival due to higher standards of healthcare.

Guinea, where the outbreak started in rural forest areas in the east, had the lowest ratio of hospital beds per capita in a World Bank survey of 68 nations in 2011, with just three beds per 10,000 people.

Outside the main cities, rural healthcare clinics are rudimentary with healthcare experts saying even basic equipment like plastic gloves is unavailable.

Although malaria and other fevers are regularly treated at hospitals and clinics in the three countries, their facilities were not prepared for a disease as deadly as Ebola. Health authorities and medical NGOs had to scramble to set up makeshift isolation units – often a collection of tents – in rural areas.

Neuman said there was some hope that public relations efforts to get more people to seek treatment for Ebola would pay dividends in lower death rates.

“While improvements in care will undoubtedly continue to increase the Ebola survival rate, there will unfortunately be more casualties from among those who have already caught the virus,” he said.

As of August 1, 2014, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the four countries stands at 1,603 including 887 deaths. (WHO/Yahoo News)

As of August 1, 2014, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the four countries stands at 1,603

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CDC Getting Calls from People Who are Ill After Visiting Africa

Should we be alarmed?

 CDC Getting Dozens Of Calls ‘About People Who Are Ill After Traveling In Africa’

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Should we be alarmed that the CDC has received “several dozen calls” from hospitals around the country “about people who are ill after traveling in Africa”?  As you will read about below, a lot more Ebola testing has been going on around the nation than we have been hearing about in the mainstream media.  I can understand the need to keep people calm, but don’t we have a right to know what is really going on?  And the media has also been very quiet about the fact that Ebola is now potentially spreading to even more countries.  As you will read about below, a Liberian man just died from Ebola in Morocco, and a man that traveled to Saudi Arabia from Sierra Leone on Sunday night is being tested for Ebola after exhibiting “symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever”.  Top officials in the U.S. keep assuring us that everything is going to be just fine, but the truth is that this is a crisis that is beginning to spiral out of control. On Tuesday, the CDC told Time Magazine that it had received dozens of calls from all over the United States about people that had gotten sick after traveling to Africa…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told TIME on Tuesday that it’s received several dozen calls from states and hospitals about people who are ill after traveling in Africa. “We’ve triaged those calls and about half-dozen or so resulted in specimen coming to CDC for testing and all have been negative for Ebola,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said, adding that the agency is expecting still more calls to come in.

Let’s certainly hope that there is nothing to be concerned about in any of those calls.  The consequences of having a major Ebola outbreak in the United States could potentially be absolutely catastrophic. Meanwhile, there is a case in Saudi Arabia that has health officials over there extremely concerned.  A man that traveled to the country on Sunday night is being tested for the virus after showing symptoms of “viral hemorrhagic fever”

Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it is testing a man for the Ebola virus after he showed symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever following a recent trip to Sierra Leone. The Health Ministry said the symptoms appeared in the 40-year-old Saudi man at a hospital in the western city of Jiddah. He is in critical condition and being treated in a unit with advanced isolation and infection-control capabilities. Different types of viral hemorrhagic fevers have been found in the kingdom, but no case of Ebola has ever been detected there, according to the ministry.

In addition, it is being reported by international media sources that a Liberian has died of the Ebola virus in Morocco. If that is true, that is extremely troubling.  That would mean that we now have confirmed Ebola cases in five different countries. And remember, the Ebola virus can have an incubation period of up to three weeks, and Ebola victims can “look quite fit and healthy and can be walking around until shortly before their deaths“. Because of this, hospitals across America are being extremely cautions right now.  The following is from a recent NPR report

If you show up at a hospital emergency department with a high fever and you just happen to have been traveling in Africa, don’t be surprised if you get a lot of attention. Hospitals are on the lookout for people with symptoms such as a high fever, vomiting and diarrhea who had been traveling in parts of West Africa affected by Ebola, following instructions from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And there have been some high profile cases that have gotten a lot of attention in recent days. The woman that was being tested for Ebola in Ohio got a lot of media attention, but it turns out that she does not have the disease. We are still waiting to hear about the man that was admitted to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.  Officials say that he “probably does not have Ebola“, but the test results have not been released yet. In addition, Paul Joseph Watson has pointed out that CNN’s Sanjay Gupta has publicly revealed that there have actually been “about half a dozen patients” that have been tested for the virus in recent days…

During a segment concerning the admission of a potential Ebola victim at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta revealed that there have been at least six cases at the hospital which prompted doctors to test for Ebola but that the details were not divulged publicly. “There have been about a half a dozen patients who have had their blood tested because of concern, those particular patients their stories were not made public,” said Gupta, adding, “I’m not sure if that’s because of heightened concern by the hospital or what that means exactly.”

What else is going on around the nation that we have not heard about? Like I keep saying, let us hope and pray that Ebola does not start spreading here, because it can rapidly become a nightmare.  Over in Africa, nearly 900 people have already died, but one doctor told CBS News that the true number is actually significantly higher because “many cases are going unreported”…

Already, the World Health Organization says 887 people have died, but a top doctor working at the heart of the outbreak in West Africa says many cases are going unreported. The senior doctor, who works for a leading medical organization in Liberia, explained to CBS News’ Debora Patta that what has helped set this outbreak apart from previous ones is the virus’ spread in urban areas. One of the epicenters of the disease is the Liberian capital of Monrovia, home to about a million people, or almost a quarter of the country’s population. The doctor, who spoke to CBS News on condition of confidentiality, said the disease is spinning out of control in Africa partly because it is extremely difficult to contain it in a sprawling, congested city center.

And it certainly does not help that infected bodies are being dumped into the streets over in Liberia.  If that continues to happen, this epidemic could very rapidly turn into a raging inferno over there. There have been health scares in the past, but this one is very different.  If you get Ebola, you are probably going to die.  And right now the number of Ebola cases is growing at an exponential rate.  If this outbreak is not brought under control soon, we could be facing the worst health crisis that we have seen in any of our lifetimes.

Delaware Woman Shoots Intruder She Found Sleeping in Her Bed

A suspected burglar is in police custody after being shot by a female homeowner in Stanton, Delaware.

According to 6 ABC, a woman whose home was empty due to renovations being completed, found quite the surprise in one of her bedrooms,

When the homeowner and her son arrived to check on the home just before 6:00 a.m., she found someone inside.

After a confrontation, police say, there was a struggle and the homeowner, who was armed with a gun, fired one shot, striking the suspect in the lower body.

The suspect was found to be sleeping in one of the bed’s inside the home.

After being shot, the suspect was able to flee the area, but he was quickly located by police who called in dogs as well as a helicopter in an effort to locate the man. He is being treated at an area hospital and is expected to survive his injuries.

The suspect is described as a homeless man.

Ohio Woman Being Tested for Ebola

Hospitals across the country are isolating and testing potential Ebola patients, erring on the side of caution as the largest Ebola outbreak to date rages in West Africa.

A 46-year-old Columbus, Ohio, woman who recently traveled to one of the three countries affected by the outbreak is being held in isolation at a local hospital, the Columbus health department said today. She was hospitalized several days ago but is “doing well” as she awaits Ebola test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are expected today or Wednesday, the health department said.

The CDC last week sent a health alert to hospitals across the country urging them to ask patients about their travel history to help identify potential Ebola cases. The CDC said has tested blood samples from six people with possible Ebola symptoms who had recently traveled to West Africa.

Emergency room physicians at Johns Hopkins Medicine thought one of their patients had Ebola Friday, but it turned out to be a false alarm, according to an internal memo obtained by ABC News.

The patient was ultimately diagnosed with malaria, but Dr. Trish Perl, a senior epidemiologist at the hospital in Baltimore, wrote in a memo to her staff that those involved did a “remarkable job” identifying and isolating the patient as well as making sure a minimal number of people were at risk for contracting the virus.

“This is a ‘wake up’ call for all of us to recognize that we are vulnerable because of the patients we serve and our location,” Perl wrote.

What Happens Once Ebola Patients Arrive in the US

Johns Hopkins Medicine said it could not provide more information because of patient confidentiality and federal privacy laws.

“Our staff trains frequently to ensure that the hospital is prepared for all types of scenarios,” the hospital said in a statement to ABC News. “If a patient were to have suspected Ebola virus, the patient would be placed in isolation, staff would begin taking standard precautions, and the patient would be evaluated by our infectious disease specialists.”

On Monday, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City announced that it was treating a potential Ebola patient who recently traveled to West Africa and was experiencing a high fever and gastrointestinal symptoms.

“Many things cause fever and gastrointestinal symptoms,” ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said shortly after Mount Sinai’s announcement on Monday. “The steps they are taking are wise given the travel history, but nothing about the symptoms is specific to Ebola.”

Doctors isolated the patient and sent blood samples to the CDC for testing, but Mount Sinai officials said at a news conference Monday night that the patient was “unlikely” to have the deadly virus.

The death toll of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone climbed to 887, theWorld Health Organization said Monday. 1,603 people have been infected, in all.

Feds Watch Airline Passengers for Ebola Symptoms

Federal agents at U.S. airports are watching travelers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the recent Ebola outbreak, as delegations from some 50 countries arrive in the nation’s capital for a leadership summit this week.

Border patrol agents at Washington’s Dulles International and New York’s JFK airports in particular have been told to ask travelers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes. Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, which will receive several African heads of state, is screening passengers too, while U.S. Secret Service agents in charge of security for the three-day summit have been briefed on what to look for and how to respond, officials said Monday.

If a passenger is suspected of carrying the deadly virus, they would be quarantined immediately and evaluated by medical personnel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provided the additional training to local airports.

“There is always the possibility that someone with an infectious disease can enter the United States,” CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said Monday. “The public health concern is whether it would spread, and, if so, how quickly.'”

The Ebola virus causes a hemorrhagic fever that has stricken more than 1,600 people, killing at least 887 of them in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or urine, unlike an airborne virus like influenza or the common cold. A person exposed to the virus can take up to 21 days to exhibit any symptoms, making it possible for infected travelers to enter the U.S. without knowing they have it.

While the CDC says it is not screening passengers boarding planes at African airports — the job of local authorities there — the center said it has encouraged vulnerable countries to follow certain precautions. Outbound passengers in the countries experiencing Ebola are being screened for fevers and with health questionnaires, Reynolds said.

Health officials say the threat to Americans remains relatively small, even with the uptick in travel this week between Africa and the United States. In the past decade, five people have entered the U.S. known to have a viral hemorrhagic fever, including a case last March of a Minnesota man diagnosed with Lassa Fever after traveling to West Africa.

Reynolds said in all five instances, U.S. officials were able to contain the illness.

A vaccine against Ebola has been successfully tested with monkeys, and there is hope it could become available as early as next July, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told “CBS This Morning” on Monday.

10 Things You Need to Know Today: August 5, 2014

Israel and Hamas start a 72-hour ceasefire, a second American Ebola patient returns for treatment, and more
A Palestinian flashes the victory sign in Gaza.
A Palestinian flashes the victory sign in Gaza. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

1. Egypt’s proposed three-day ceasefire begins in Gaza
Israel pulled its last troops out of the Gaza Strip early Tuesday just before a 72-hour truce began at 8 a.m. local time. The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was proposed by Egypt, which plans to broker indirect talks in an attempt to end a month of bitter fighting. “It’s clear now that the interest of all parties is to have a ceasefire,” said Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian delegation in Egypt. [Los Angeles Times]

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2. Second aid worker stricken with Ebola returns from Liberia
A second American Ebola patient, Nancy Writebol, was flown out of Liberia on Tuesday to continue her treatment in the U.S. Writebol, like her fellow aid worker Dr. Kent Brantly, has improved after receiving an experimental serum that previously had been tested only in monkeys. Both were helping patients stricken in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, the worst ever recorded. [Reuters]

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3. Toledo tap water is declared safe again
Health officials declared Toledo’s drinking water to be safe again on Monday, after more than 400,000 people were warned not to drink the Ohio city’s tap water for two days. Scientists said, however, that the algae blooms that released harmful toxins into the water were likely to persist in Lake Erie, and possibly even get worse. Officials are adding chlorine and activated carbons to the water to keep it safe. [NBC News]

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4. Judge calls Alabama restrictions on abortion clinics unconstitutional
A federal judge ruled that an Alabama law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals was unconstitutional, because it could interfere with a woman’s right to have an abortion. Supporters of the law said their aim was to make clinics safer. The judge, Myron Thompson, said the law would result in the closing of three of the state’s five abortion clinics. [Montgomery Advertiser]

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5. Obama starts “unprecedented” meeting with African leaders
President Obama is expected to announce Tuesday that U.S. businesses have committed to investing $14 billion in construction, banking, clean energy, and other projects across Africa. The news comes on the second day of what Obama called “an unprecedented gathering of African leaders” his administration is hosting on issues from food security to battling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. [Reuters, Fox News]

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6. U.S. closes emergency shelters for undocumented child immigrants
The government said Monday it would soon close three emergency shelters at military bases where about 7,700 children illegally crossing the Mexican border alone have been housed. By law, the government must hold unaccompanied children until a relative can be found to take them in pending a deportation hearing. More than 57,000 kids, mostly from Central America, have been caught since Oct. 1, but the flow is slowing. [The Associated Press]

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7. A weakening Tropical Storm Bertha passes by the East Coast
Hurricane Bertha, the second named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, weakened to tropical storm status overnight, with its top sustained winds dropping to 65 miles per hour. Bertha is expected to continue weakening as it passes between the East Coast and Bermuda on Tuesday. The storm poses no direct threat to the U.S., but it could cause potentially dangerous rip currents on the Jersey shore. [The Associated Press]

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8. Europe commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I
Dignitaries attended commemorative services in the U.K. and Belgium on Monday to mark the 100th anniversary of the day Britain declared war on Germany, and entered World War I. The Rev. Dr. Laurence Whitley said at Glasgow Cathedral that the start of the war was a day when the world changed. “Our nations and peoples found themselves in a war the like of which had never before been seen,” he said, “and the memory of which still haunts us all.” [ABC.net.au]

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9. Scrabble catches up with the times
Scrabble’s ultimate arbiter — Merriam Webster — is updating the classic word game with 5,000 new terms, including many of the trendiest words in pop culture. “Chillax,” “bromance,” “selfie,” “frenemy,” “buzzkill” — will all be fair game when the new Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Players Dictionary hits stores August 11. “These are words that have become part of the culture,” says Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster. [New York Daily News]

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10. Former Reagan press secretary James Brady dies
Former White House press secretary James Brady, who suffered a gunshot to the head in the 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, has died at age 73, his family said in a statement Monday. Brady was erroneously pronounced dead after his injury, which left him partially paralyzed. He became a leading advocate of gun control after his injury, helping to pass the landmark Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act — or the Brady Bill — in 1993. [Reuters]

Ebola Virus: ‘Horrible Way to Die’ and No Vaccine

Medical staff put on protective gear at Kenema Government Hospital before taking a sample from a suspected Ebola patient in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

Tommy Trenchard | Reuters
Medical staff put on protective gear at Kenema Government Hospital before taking a sample from a suspected Ebola patient in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

At least 826 people have died in West Africa from the Ebola virus.

Even though the number is expected to rise, it’s still more deaths than any previous outbreak of the deadly disease.

And that ironically, may be why there’s no vaccine or treatment available.

“Prior episodes burned themselves out with fewer deaths after a shorter time,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease professor at Florida International University.

“That’s meant less of a feeling that a vaccine should be on the market,” she explained. “There’s no money in it. But it’s such a horrible way to die.”

Experts say there are Ebola treatments and vaccines in various testing stages at several U.S. research centers, mostly funded by the government. Most of the drugs have been tested so far mostly on animals, with no target date for availability.

There are a few small American companies developing treatments, such asBioCryst and NancoViricides, One Canadian firm, Tekmira, is also working on a treatment, with funds from the U.S Defense Department.Larger outfits have shied away.

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“It’s tough to develop these drugs because they might not even be used,” said Dr. Chris Milne, director of research at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.

Milne said that pharmaceutical companies can spend millions in developing flu vaccines that get thrown away because they’re ineffective on new virus strains.

“It’s a lot of time, effort and money to develop something like an Ebola vaccine with little guarantee of a profit,” he said.

Heading to Sierra Leone

Just this weekend, the Centers for Disease Control said the Ebola virus is out of control and has advised against non-essential travel to West Africa.

FIU’s Marty is likely to arrive over the next couple of weeks in Sierra Leone, one of the countries hit by the virus.

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She’s on a list of doctors taking part in the new $100 million effort by the World Health Organization to treat Ebola patients.

This comes as two American aid workers have been diagnosed with the virus and one of them treated in an isolation unit at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is said to be in a critical phase of the disease, but improving.

“If we could get approval from the governments in West Africa, this could be a perfect way to try the vaccines out,” said Marty. But so far, Marty said, that permission has yet to come.

Asked if she had fears about going, she said it’s natural to be afraid.

“I’ve made my plans, like insurance and next of kin, but I’m feeling confident we’ll be protected over there with good equipment and proper hygiene,” she explained.

High mortality rate

Ebola is a severe and nearly always fatal disease to humans, according to WHO.

There are several strains with an incubation period of up to 21 days after infection.

Symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Read MoreUS Peace Corps withdraws volunteers on Ebola scare

Transmission of the virus happens in several ways. Humans and animals can be infected by fruit bats, which are believed to be the first hosts of the virus.

Humans can get it from infected animals, either by slaughtering the animals or through consumption of blood, milk, or raw or under-cooked meat.

Between humans, the virus can be passed from person to person through touch, contact with body fluids, or contact with contaminated needles.

Funeral practices are ‘transmitters’

More than 1,300 people have been infected with Ebola over the last three months. This recent outbreak is believed to have started in Liberia.

The government there has called the crisis a national public emergency and has urged citizens to follow health guidelines. Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency and called in troops to quarantine Ebola victims.

This outbreak has become extremely dangerous, said experts, because the virus has spread to more populated areas than in the past.

Liberia has threatened to arrest those who hide Ebola victims. Some residents are said to be removing patients from hospitals for special prayers or to treat them with local medicine.

“One of the main transmitters are the funeral practices,” said Dr. Steven Vryhof, who returned last month from Liberia after working there for two weeks with the medical aid group, Mission to Heal.

Vryhof said many people insist on burying the dead, which means shaving the men and braiding women’s hair and so exposing themselves to the Ebola virus.

Americans should be ‘prepared’

As to fears the Ebola virus could spread to the U.S, it’s been here before.

In the years, 1989, 1990 and 1996, Ebola was found in quarantined monkeys imported from the Philippines. But no human infections were discovered.

Even as one aid worker gets treatment in Atlanta, experts say the virus is unlikely to spread.

“We have a sophisticated infrastructure of isolation and other precautions that would prevent outbreaks here,” said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

But Americans should be on the alert, said Dr. Cecilia Rokusek, assistant dean for education, planning and research at Nova Southeastern University.

“We can no longer become complacent to any public health danger anywhere,” she said.