The National Institutes of Health admitted a patient with exposure to the Ebola virus to the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland Thursday afternoon “out of an abundance of caution,” the NIH said.
The patient — an American nurse who volunteered at an Ebola treatment unit in the West African nation of Sierra Leone — was transferred to the U.S. by private charter medevac in isolation and “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 federal medical research agency said in a statement.
Sierra Leone is one of three countries at the epicenter of the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola, which has already killed more than 6,300 people and infected over 18,000. Health workers in Sierra Leone have been hit particularly hard; just this week, the country lost their 10th doctor to the disease.
At this point, the patient has not yet tested positive for Ebola but was admitted to NIH for observation and to enroll in a “clinical protocol” that will allow doctors to closely monitor him/her for signs of the virus.
“NIH is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our patients, NIH staff, and the public. This situation presents minimal risk to any of them,” the statement said.
The NIH hospital outside Washington is one of a handful in the United States specially equipped to treat patients with highly infectious diseases like Ebola. The hospital helped treat a Dallas nurse infected while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who fell ill with Ebola shortly after arriving in the U.S. and later died. The nurse, Nina Pham, survived and is Ebola-free.
NIH said that it wouldn’t be divulging any additional details about the patient at this time.