Update: In a statement, Australia’s Ministry of Health has announced the patient’s test came out negative for Ebola.
SYDNEY — Queensland health officials have called for calm after a 27-year-old man was taken to a hospital on Thursday morning with initial fears he may have contracted the Ebola virus.
The man had been seriously ill for two days after returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was taken by emergency services at 7:40 a.m. local time on Thursday morning from the Southport watchhouse.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has urged the community to remain calm after reports “of unnecessary hype and fear circulating in the community”.
The statement said calls to the information line of Queensland Heath suggest people were cancelling holidays to Queensland, pulling children out of school and checking out of accommodation early.
“The community needs to know that there is an extremely low risk of contracting Ebola, regardless of whether this man’s test results come back positive or negative later this evening,” Young said.
“Ebola virus disease is not a highly contagious disease like the ‘flu or a cold; it requires direct exposure to an infected person’s bodily fluids such as blood, vomit or faeces, during the time they are infectious.”
Young also made it clear the possibility the 27-year-old man had contracted the deadly illness was low.
“Importantly, this patient doesn’t have a fever which is one of the first signs of Ebola virus infection, so it is very unlikely that he has Ebola virus from his history of where he’s been and also his symptoms,” she said. “So there is absolutely no need for people to panic for any reason.”
After an initial clinical assessment, Gold Coast Hospital Director Infectious Diseases Dr John Gerrard said it is exceedingly unlikely the patient has Ebola. Gerrard told a press conference the chance of the man having contracted the virus is “vanishingly small”.
“He’s not particularly sick but I don’t want to say it’s impossible otherwise we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “I really must emphasise the risk is extremely small.”
The man has been tested for dengue fever and malaria, after claiming he had a fever. A clinical assessment has yet to confirm the man is unwell, with results expected after 6 p.m. local time.
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On Wednesday night, the man was arrested for trespassing in Surfers Paradise and told officers he felt sick as he was being bailed on Thursday morning, The Gold Coast Bulletin reported.
Queensland Health confirmed “a patient has been identified by paramedics as having symptoms of Ebola virus”.
“Gold Coast Health is taking necessary precautions and has isolated the patient who is currently being assessed. Gold Coast Health has processes in place to manage such circumstances.”
Paramedics, wearing protective clothing, rushed the man to the Gold Coast University Hospital where he has been isolated and assessed.
A spokesperson for Queensland Health told Mashable the wearing of protective clothing by emergency staff was standard in high-risk cases.
“Based on information provided by the patient, paramedics wore personal protective equipment. This is standard procedure when dealing with patients who may have a potentially infectious illness,” they said.
Necessary precautions being taken. Patient is isolated & being assessed. Processes in place to safely manage such circumstances #Ebola
— Queensland Health (@qldhealthnews) September 10, 2014
The hospital has an area in place for highly-contagious infections, after recently doing a review due to advice by the World Health Organisation.
It has not been confirmed if the man has Ebola. Further information will be available after clinical assessments take place.
Since July, 32 deaths from the Ebola virus have been confirmed in the Congo , yet officials have said this outbreak is not connected to the devastating outbreak in West Africa, which has killed 2,296 people.
“This epidemic has nothing to do with the one in West Africa,” the Congo’s Health Minister Kabange Numbi said.
It is the seventh outbreak of the virus in the Congo, since the disease was first discovered in 1976. The current outbreak is located in dense forest away from urban centres, making the risk of contagion low and the possibility of containment higher.