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Wednesday Morning Notes

Building unity through service — Helping mankind is at the heart of the teachings of the Bahá’í faith. Find out what a Reston-based community is doing to serve humanity in big and small ways. [Reston Association]

An early warning for Metro riders — Although this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival won’t directly impact the Silver Line, August may be a rough ride. Service will be significantly reduced beginning August 11. [WMATA]

Ebola, a monkey house and a throwback to 1989  — Here’s a blast from the past: a story about when the most dangerous strand of ebola, a silent killer, lurked in Isaac Newton Square. [WETA]

Photo by Angelika Stadel

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Fairfax Health Director Speaks Out on Ebola

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Director of Health for the Fairfax County Health Department says that the county, particularly in the wake of a scare at Inova Fairfax Hospital earlier this month, is keeping apprised daily with recommendations on controlling the deadly disease.

A woman who vomited on a tour bus near the Pentagon Oct. 17 was sent to Inova Fairfax after Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington refused to treat her. It was later determined the woman did not have Ebola.

Below is the statement from Add0-Ayensu, issued Monday:

Dear Fairfax Area Community,

The constant media coverage of the Ebola cases that were diagnosed in Texas and New York continue to fuel concerns among people in the general population and have highlighted risks in health care settings.

Adding to these concerns is the Ebola scare that occurred in the Fairfax area on Friday, October 17, which involved a suspect Ebola patient who was transported from the Pentagon to Inova Fairfax Hospital. Although it was a false alarm, I’d like use the incident to help increase public understanding about how the public health system works and also provide an update about our Ebola readiness.

One of the critical early decisions that must be made when evaluating a suspect case of any disease is whether the individual meets the case definition and therefore warrants confirmatory testing. For Ebola virus disease (EVD), the decision to test is based on the patient’s travel history, determination of exposure risk, and whether the symptoms are consistent with EVD.

The process for testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if necessary, is facilitated by local health departments. While it took some time to validate travel history of the individual involved in the October 17 incident, fortunately, doctors at Inova gathered enough information to determine that the patient did not have any exposures to Ebola and therefore testing was not required.

In the last several months, the Fairfax County Health Department, in collaboration with partners in the medical community, has facilitated the initial evaluation of about half a dozen suspect Ebola cases and in each case determined that testing was not warranted.

Routinely, various public health system partners collaborate to increase their readiness to address a variety of public health threats such as influenza pandemics and other highly infectious respiratory diseases, anthrax, tuberculosis and measles–just to name a few. These information sharing and preparedness and response activities, which typically happen behind the scenes, successfully prevent sustained human-to-human spread of these and other infectious diseases.

Preventing epidemics and the spread of disease is a core public health function that involves tried and true public health actions that successfully limit the introduction and spread of infectious diseases in this country every day. These well-established practices enable the U.S. public health system to rapidly identify/isolate people suspected of being sick and find/contact (and if necessary quarantine) people who have been potentially exposed to the sick person.

Although the Ebola situation is rapidly evolving, I would like to assure you that the Fairfax County Health Department is closely monitoring CDC and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommendations and continues to work with public health system partners in the region to ensure our readiness. Some of the Ebola-related steps that our public health system partners have taken in recent months to ensure we are prepared include:

  • Enhanced health care facility infection control practice and training of staff on proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

  • Ebola screening and monitoring of all travelers who arrive at Dulles Airport from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

  • Fairfax County Public Schools’ development and implementation of screenings for recent travel history among new students and currently enrolled students who present to school health rooms with fever.

  • Fairfax County Human Services agencies’ adoption of Ebola-specific screening measures developed by the Health Department for the populations that we serve.

  • Review of Fire and Rescue Department infection control policies and use of PPE to optimize personnel protection when responding to suspect Ebola patients.

  • Development of telephone screening protocol for Fairfax County’s Department of Public Safety Communications (911 call center) to provide first responders and hospitals with advanced information about a patient’s travel history, if relevant.

I recognize that many people are wondering what they can do to protect themselves. While the Fairfax County’s planning efforts have been extensive, the risk of exposure to Ebola in the U.S. remains extremely low among the general population.  Although the following recommendations won’t necessarily prevent Ebola, they are prudent steps that all of us can take to improve overall community health and to prevent the spread of many types of disease:

  • Educate yourself about Ebola. The facts will help reduce anxiety over this scary disease. All of the information you need is available on our website, which includes links to the CDC’s website.  Here are three key points to remember:
    • While we have seen a few people diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. among those who were exposed to people with Ebola,  the possibility of an outbreak of Ebola like the one currently occurring in West Africa remains highly unlikely because the two main factors fueling the epidemic in West Africa are not present in the United States: (1) the lack of a public system; and (2) African burial rituals, such as washing the body of the deceased.
    • The U.S. public health system knows how to stop Ebola’s further spread: thorough case finding, isolation of ill people, contacting people exposed to the ill person, and further isolation of contacts if they develop symptoms.
    • Ebola is not spread through casual contact. Coming into contact with people who do not have symptoms of Ebola poses no risk, even if they have recently traveled to affected countries in Africa. Only people who have symptoms of Ebola, such as fever, can spread the disease.Transmission requires direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
  • Get a flu vaccine, if you haven’t already received one. While the vaccine will not protect you from Ebola, keep in mind that it’s flu season. Each year there are about 200,000 hospitalizations and up to 36,000 flu-related deaths. Flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the flu.
  • Wash your hands frequently and correctly with soap and water. This will guard against all types of infectious diseases, including Ebola, enterovirus D68, the flu, and the common cold.
  • Cover your coughs or sneezes with your sleeve. If you use a tissue, wash your hands with soap and water after throwing away the tissue.
  • Stay home from work or school when sick. This will help to prevent the spread of illnesses throughout the community.

Members of our community are understandably cornered about Ebola, so I hope this information helps to reassure you about the Fairfax community’s readiness and provides you with a broader understanding of how the public health system is at work every day of the year.

Thank you,

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, MD, MPH
Director of Health
Fairfax County Health Department

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Suspected Ebola Case Went to Fairfax After Arlington Facility Refused

Hazmat teams at the Pentagon Friday/Credit":ARLnow.com(Update, 6 p.m. Tuesday). Virginia Hospital Center has issued a statement about the incident. Read it on ARLnow.com.

The woman suspected of having Ebola and taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital on Friday was taken there from the Pentagon because the nearest facility, Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, refused to treat her, ARLnow.com reports.

The Arlington County Fire Department told ARLnow.com that VHC refused the woman — who at the time was thought to potentially have the deadly Ebola virus — when medics brought her to the hospital. She never left the ambulance.

“We were turned away,” said ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. “We followed our protocol and brought the patient to the closest hospital (VHC), at which point we were rerouted to Fairfax Inova.”

The woman, who was not identified, vomited on a tour bus near the Pentagon Friday morning and set off quarantines across the region. Medical officials said late Friday the woman did not have Ebola. They also said she had not traveled to West Africa, as she first told authorities.

“Based on the public health investigation, which included the travel history of a woman who became ill this morning in a Pentagon parking lot, and on questioning of her by medical staff, medical authorities are confident that she does not have Ebola,” officials said in a statement.

However, the situation brings up questions on whether hospitals in the area — and across the United States — are prepared to handle Ebola. Earlier this month, VHC said it was prepared for Ebola patients.

Said the hospital in a statement:

“Virginia Hospital Center wants to reassure our community that the Hospital has the infrastructure and procedures already in place to screen, and if necessary, isolate, test and treat all high-risk patients. We drill and prepare for just such situations; therefore, our staff is highly trained to take appropriate precautions for a suspected and/or confirmed Ebola case.

A multi-disciplinary task force has reviewed our infection control guidelines and reinforced education of the Hospital staff to ensure it can detect a patient with Ebola Virus Disease, protect all healthcare workers so they can safely care for the patient, and respond to the patient in a timely manner.”

Witnesses told ARLnow.com there was a “heated exchange” between the emergency physician and hospital administration inside the emergency room while the patient waited in the ambulance. The tipster also claims hospital administration worried it would lose business if it came to be seen as an “Ebola hospital.”

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control on Monday issued new guidelines for health care facilities after it was determined staffers at Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas were not given proper guidance when treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a man who had recently traveled to Liberia, when he presented with Ebola symptoms. Duncan has since died, and two nurses who treated him are also being treated for the disease.

Reston Hospital Center and Inova Fairfax said last week they are taking extra precautions should an Ebola case need treatment here.

ARLnow.com reporters contributed to this article.

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Ebola Reston Scientists: Mistakes Made in Dallas

Jerry Jaax, researcher who discovered Ebola Reston/Credit: Kansas State UniversityAs fear over Ebola spreading in the United States has increased during the last several weeks, researchers Jerry and Nancy Jaax were reminded of another time and place: Reston in October of 1989.

Twenty-five years ago, the husband-and-wife researchers, then working for the United States Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), were called to Reston, where monkeys in a lab at Isaac Newton Square’s Hazleton Labs had contracted a puzzling deadly disease.

That disease is now called Ebola Reston. The Jaaxs’ contributions were chronicled in the bestselling book, The Hot Zone.

The Jaaxes were part of the team that determined how Ebola Reston was spread (contact with an infected animal), why some humans tested positive but never got sick, how to keep it from spreading and how to effectively disinfect the lab where hundreds of monkeys either died or were euthanized.

Ebola Reston remains the only one of the five forms of the disease that is not fatal to humans. Ebola Zaire is the strain that has killed close to 2,500 persons in West Africa this year.

One man, Thomas Eric Duncan, contracted the disease in Liberia. He traveled back to the U.S. and, after initially being sent home, was treated at a Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. He died on Oct. 8. Meanwhile, two nurses who treated Duncan also contracted the disease.

Jerry Jaax, who is now Kansas State University’s associate vice president for research compliance as well as a university veterinarian, says that the Dallas hospital — and all U.S. hospitals — need to be prepared for all possibilities.

“There was no real excuse for a major hospital not to have some meetings and a team of people to handle this,” he said in a phone interview on Monday. “It was inevitable that someone would walk off a plane and present at a U.S. emergency room. I would think they would at least have had a skeleton plan and basic equipment.”

Here is what else the Jaaxes had to say about Ebola Reston, Ebola in the U.S. and the future of the disease.

Q: Have things changed much in infectious disease since the late 1980s, when Ebola Reston was discovered?

Jerry Jaax: Yes and no. When the outbreak was discovered in Reston, there were only two kinds of Ebola. Zaire (the type that is affecting Africa now) and Sudan, which has a very high mortality rate. When we were called to Reston, Ebola had never been reported in monkeys.

When you look at all the angst in this county now, back then only 1 out of 1,000 people had ever even head of Ebola. There wasn’t this tremendous response. There wasn’t the media coverage, which has really ratcheted up the fear.

In retrospect, it made what we were doing a lot easier. We were able to do our thing in relative anonymity. We absolutely were not ready for anything to happen. We really had to cobble together a response in a short period of time. We had to go down [to Reston] and not get people sick.

Q: What kind of a protocol did you come up with to keep the virus contained and keep people safe?

JJ: [The priorities were] keeping the virus in the facility and protecting people in the surrounding area and making sure our people were safe.

We had procedures and personal protective equipment. And we are rightly proud — it all worked out. Forty people were at risk [in the Reston lab]. Not one became affected. That is a demonstrable success.

Q: What kind of challenges were there in dealing with the sick monkeys and the unknowns of the new virus?

JJ: It was pretty rough. We had 400 to 500 animals, and they are very active. Monkeys have a tremendous ability to generate aerosols. You couldn’t just say to then ‘Give me your hand.’ We had trouble seeing because the aerosols would fog up our gear. It was very difficult.

I sort of appreciate the whirlpool medical folks are in right now. But it is obvious [Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in] Dallas really didn’t think it through very carefully.

Q: How have we done in the the U.S. in the last 25 years as far as getting those procedures in place?

JJ: My sense of it is certainly the federal government since Sept. 11, 2001 has been trying to prepare first responders and hospitals and public health officials for bioterrorism and emerging infectious disease.

In my view, they were saying ‘we can handle this.’ So it was disappointing what happened down there, how poorly they handled Mr. Duncan when he presented. Ebola probably wasn’t the thing people were thinking about.

Reston put Ebola on the map [In the US] but it was very much a mystery disease. We had no significant outbreaks and no significant threat that Ebola would get here. Flu, MERS, SARS, these are diseases that have much more of an early transmissible risk. People were not really thinking about Ebola, but we should have had the right equipment on hand.

Q: So with Mr. Duncan’s death and two nurses being treated for the disease, do you think the CDC and hospitals will do better now?

JJ: I think it is safe to say hospitals are preparing now. My sense is trying to prepare for something like this is expensive. But you would have to be living under a rock now to see what happened in Dallas and not be planning.

Q: Reston Ebola is different in that is spread from room to room and only affects monkeys. Could it mutate though?

JJ: We have followed the outbreaks closely. There doesn’t seem to be any real evidence that aerosol transmission is a factor. We are a strong believer in droplet. If someone coughed or sneezed on you and had Ebola, that would be worrisome. But if you sit across the hall or room, I think your chances of getting sick are exceedingly very remote.

Q: In Reston, the lab was torn down in 1995 and has been a child care center ever since. Should people be reassured by this?

JJ: This is a not a persistent virus. It is not like Anthrax [which can live in soil]. It is successfully disinfected with bleach and ultraviolet light. There is no chance of residual Ebola in Reston.

We live in Kansas City and are talking to you from San Antonio today. We flew through Dallas. I would not even give it a second thought in taking all four of my grandkids to the Dallas Zoo. You have to put it in context. We have one clinical case [in the U.S.]. He walked through a door. He came from West Africa. The clinic unfortunately made some mistakes. They sent him home. He interacted with people. He got sick. He came back. And by all accounts, the hospital was not prepared.

But the people he interacted with were quarantined and did not get sick. And the two additional cases were occupational exposures, which are risks you take in the type of work you do.

We don’t have an outbreak in the U.S. We don’t have an epidemic.

Q: So what lessons have been learned?

NJ: People have to be signed up to deal with the disease and they have to practice, practice, practice. Anyone who has really worked with the virus would not dream of [not being in full protective gear] unless they had no other choice.

Photo: Scientist Jerry Jaax, who was instrumental in discovering Ebola Reston in 1989-90/Credit: Kansas State University

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UPDATE: Sick Woman at Inova Fairfax Hospital Does Not Have Ebola

Ebola Virus/Credit: CDC

Update at 5:20 p.m. — The woman who vomited on a tour bus near the Pentagon Friday morning and set off quarantines across the region does not have Ebola, Fairfax and Arlington health department officials said Friday evening.

“Based on the public health investigation, which included the travel history of a woman who became ill this morning in a Pentagon parking lot, and on questioning of her by medical staff, medical authorities are confident that she does not have Ebola,” officials said in a statement.

(Updated at 5:00) A woman vomiting on a tour bus near the Pentagon Friday morning is being evaluated for possible symptoms of Ebola at Fairfax Inova Hospital.

County health officials said the woman is being kept in isolation while they get information about her health and travel history. Local health departments are working to find every person who had contact with the woman.

“The patient was immediately isolated and is undergoing triage in consultation with the Fairfax County Health Department,” Inova said in a statement. “Based upon that evaluation, a decision will be made by the health department as to whether the patient meets the criteria to be tested for the Ebola virus.”

The Centers for Disease Control will determine whether the woman should be tested for Ebola, Fairfax County Health Department officials said about 3 p.m.

The woman, whose age was not released, became ill on a tour bus in the Pentagon’s south parking lot about 9:10 a.m. Friday, according to a statement from Arlington County. When medics learned she had recently arrived from Africa, a hazardous materials team was called out of “a complete abundance of caution,” Pentagon Force Protection Agency spokesman Chris Layman told ARLnow.com.

The woman was initially taken to Virginia Hospital Center but did not exit the ambulance. The Arlington County Fire Department then transported her to Fairfax Inova Hospital, Arlington officials said. A news chopper photographer posted photos of emergency vehicles and an orange protective tent outside the 3300 Gallows Rd. hospital about 12:15 p.m.

Two officials with knowledge of the incident, plus the woman’s boss at a public relations firm, said they do not believe the patient had recently traveled outside the U.S., The Washington Post reported. Rather, the woman was suffering from a “severe illness” and might have boarded the wrong bus, her boss said.

The bus the woman briefly rode was quarantined for four hours near Barracks Row in D.C. and D.C. police closed an entire block, the Post reported. D.C. Department of Health officials told U.S. Marines and others on board — who had no contact with the woman — to take their temperatures twice a day for the next three weeks and report any irregularities.

An Inova representative said Thursday that he was “absolutely confident” the facility could treat Ebola patients. Officials said then that they planned to open a separate Ebola unit next week.

A Loudoun county inmate who had recently traveled in West Africa was taken to Inova Loudoun Hospital on Thursday after she was found to have a low-grade fever, the Post reported. The middle-aged woman “didn’t meet the threshold for Ebola testing,” the hospital said in a statement Friday morning. “All safety precautions and protocols were in place” at the Loudoun hospital, they said.

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Reston-Area Hospitals Say They’re Prepared for Ebola

Ebola poster (Photo via CDC)As more rigorous screenings for Ebola began at Dulles International Airport on Thursday, local hospitals said they’re ready to handle patients.

Reston Hospital Center is giving health care workers gowns and goggles, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, officials told WTOP. Staff will use respirator masks while in contact with people who could have the virus, and will follow World Health Organization guidelines.

Inova Fairfax Hospital will open a separate Ebola unit next week that can isolate as many as 12 people, WTOP reported. Inova Health System Chief Medical Officer Loring Flint said he was “absolutely confident” the facility could treat Ebola patients.

No cases of Ebola have been found in the Washington, D.C. region. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., had a three-hour layover at Dulles on Sept. 20, before he fell ill.

“The risk of Ebola spreading widely in the United States is low,” county officials said in a statement released Wednesday. Officials reminded residents that the virus is transmitted only by touching blood or bodily fluids of an infected person, touching contaminated objects or touching infected animals.

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Ebola Victims in Liberia Get ‘Gloves for Love’ From Reston

Heather Robertson’s obstetrician couldn’t find a single pair of medical gloves in the capital of Liberia.

An international development professional and Reston resident, Robertson worked in Monrovia for more than three years and received prenatal care from Dr. Rick Sacra, the Massachusetts doctor who contracted ebola this summer and tested negative, his doctor said Sunday.

When Robertson heard that Sacra raced from shop to shop in search of gloves this summer, she felt hopeless — and then figured out how she could help.

Robertson, 39, is collecting thousands of gloves in Reston and sending them to hospitals in Liberia grappling with the deadly ebola virus. Just three weeks after launching a Facebook page called Gloves for Love Liberia, Robertson has received more than 42,000 gloves donated from as far away as Australia and France.

“It’s exceeded all my expectations,” she said, noting her family is using their guest room to store the stacks of cardboard boxes.

Boxes of gloves starting at $12 each and Tyvek suits that cost $13 each are part of an Amazon Wish List created by Robertson, who has worked on infrastructure and workforce development projects in Africa for 13 years.

“The Wish List is like a wedding registry,” she said, and allowed her to control the quality of the gloves according to what medical professionals in Monrovia told her they needed.

While what Liberia needs most to handle ebola is volunteer medical staff, Robertson said, glove donations let people without that expertise help, too.

“Donating gloves seemed more personal than giving money,” she said. “There’s something about the tangibleness of it.”

More than 14,000 of the gloves were sent earlier this month to an Episcopal church in Monrovia, which donated the supplies to nine clinics, Robertson said. And on Thursday, she and volunteers packed 22,000 of the gloves onto a truck headed toward a ship that will ferry the supplies to a Catholic church in Liberia’s capital. With the help of a nun Robertson knows, the gloves will go to 14 clinics. Church-run clinics often don’t receive government money, she said.

Robertson said she talks every day to Monrovia residents who survived the country’s 14-year civil war and are now grappling with the outbreak.

“People are scared,” she said. “They’re doing the minimum amount of interaction possible. Maybe they go to a store and the bank and then they go home. They’re going back into a protection and self-preservation mode.”

Reston made global headlines in 1990 when a strain of the virus was first identified at a lab in the locality and a monkey infected with it escaped.

Gloves for Love Liberia is now trying to collect a total of 50,000 through the end of this week.

“I’m going to keep going until people [in Liberia] tell me they no longer want to hear from me,” Robertson said.

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Fairfax: Ebola Not a Health Threat Here

Ebola Virus/Credit: CDCEven though the man with the first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States spent three hours at Dulles International Airport nearly two weeks ago, Fairfax County Health Department officials say local residents do not need to take action.

Even though there has been a confirmed case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States, an outbreak of Ebola — like the one currently occurring in West Africa — is highly unlikely in the United States,” health department officials said in a statement.

The two main factors fueling the epidemic in West Africa are not present in the United States: a lack of infection control practices; and African burial rituals, such as washing the body of the deceased, the health department said.

The man, who flew from Liberia to Brussels, then Brussels to Dulles and then Dallas, was not ill during the flight so he was not contagious, the Centers for Disease Control said.

“The ill person did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa and the CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring, as Ebola is contagious only if the person is experiencing active symptoms,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

Fairfax County Health adds:

To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, the United States has a public health system that on a daily basis rapidly identifies/isolates people suspected of being sick and finds/contacts people who have been potentially exposed to the sick person. Public health systems like this do not exist in the African countries currently affected by the Ebola outbreak.

Coming into contact with people who do not have symptoms of Ebola poses no risk, even if they have recently traveled to affected countries in Africa

There is no action that people who live in the Fairfax community need to take as a result of the Ebola case recently identified in Dallas, Texas or the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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Man in U.S. With Ebola Traveled Through Dulles

Dulles International Airport/File photoThe man who was diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas-area hospital this week traveled through Dulles International Airport on his way back from Liberia, officials said.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said late Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control has assured them that the man was not ill during his flight on Sept. 20 so there is no chance of transmission.

“The ill person did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa and the CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring, as Ebola is contagious only if the person is experiencing active symptoms,” MWAA said in a statement.

United Airlines officials said they believe that the man traveled on the following flights: Brussels to Washington Dulles on Flight 951, and Washington Dulles to Dallas-Fort Worth on Flight 822.

The CDC said in a statement there is  “zero risk of transmission on any flight on which the patient flew because he was not symptomatic until several days after his trip and could not have been contagious on the dates he traveled.”

The CDC added that while they feel it is unnecessary “for it or the airline to contact others who were on the patient’s flights, United is providing information about the flights United believes the patient took, based on information provided by the CDC. We are ensuring our employees have this information and suggest that any customers who have concerns contact the experts at the CDC for further information.”

A Texas television station says the man spent three hours on the ground at Dulles. The planes in which he traveled have since flown to 27 cities, reports ABC 13 Houston.

The man, identified by the Associated Press as Thomas Eric Duncan, remains hospitalized in Dallas. Family members, including children, he came in contact with since showing symptoms late last week, are under a 21-day quarantine.

Ebola has killed more than 2,900 people since the outbreak began in March, according to the CDC..

Meanwhile, Reston has been mentioned in many reports this week as a place where Ebola was previously found in the United States. That infection, which began in monkeys imported from the Philippines to a Reston lab in 1989, was transmitted through the air.

While hundreds of monkeys either contracted or were exposed  to what is now called Ebola Reston, one of five strains of the deadly disease, Ebola Reston did not infect humans.

Read more about Ebola Reston in this Reston Now article.

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Reston’s Link to Ebola, Nearly 25 Years Later

Ebola Virus/Credit: CDCThere is worldwide concern over the worst Ebola outbreak in history. The current outbreak has killed nearly 700 people in four African countries, according to the World Health Organization.

The hemorrhagic disease is half a world away, but when scientists study Ebola and how it spreads, they often look to Reston.

That’s right, Reston, Va. There is a strain of Ebola called “Ebola Reston,” because it was discovered here in 1990.

There are five types of Ebola that can kill humans. Ebola Reston was discovered to only kill moneys, though

However, that discovery came after a serious medical investigation, chronicled in the book The Hot Zone.

Here’s what happened:

In the fall of 1989, Hazelton Laboratories had a lab at 1946 Isaac Newton Square West, where KinderCare is now located. The lab did animal experiments.

There were already about 500 macaque monkeys housed at the facility when 100 more were flown from the Philippines, according to an article in the Internet Journal of Preventative Medicine.

A month later, 29 of the 100 quarantined monkeys had died. During a necropsy, a veterinarian found one monkey’s spleen had tripled in size and hardened and there was blood in the intestines. After conducting several other necropsies he diagnosed the deaths as being caused by simian hemorrhagic fever virus (SHFV), the Journal article said.

The Hazelton facility veterinarian then sent samples of the monkey tissues to the United States Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) for a conclusive diagnosis.  Meanwhile, Hazelton lab workers began euthanizing the remaining animals, but sporadic deaths began occurring in several other rooms. Soon, 30 monkeys from a different shipment were dead.

More from the Journal:

Back at USAMRIID another researcher discovered by electron microscopy that Ebola Zaire was responsible for the monkey deaths.

On Nov. 28, 1989 nearly six weeks after monkeys began dying in Reston, USAMRIID verified the Ebola finding. The following day, representatives from USAMRIID, the CDC, and the Virginia Department of Health met and developed an action plan. The CDC would handle people; USAMRIID would handle the monkeys and the monkey facility. Because of the threat that Ebola might spread to staff, Reston, and the greater Washington, DC community, the Army determined that all remaining monkeys would be immediately euthanized. The first task was to determine how best to administer a solution to a building potentially full of Ebola.

Scientists came to Reston in hazmat suits in order to carefully euthanize monkeys and stop the spread of the disease. During the process one of the monkeys escaped.

“Several of us spent the better part of a day trying to catch it,” Dr. Jerry Jaax said in a veterinary medical journal interview. “When we talk about the Reston incident, we compare the frustration of that day with the Hollywood version in the movie ‘Outbreak,’ in which an infected monkey was coaxed from a tree and captured within minutes. It is a great example of reality vs. Hollywood.’ “

The runaway was later caught in the building.

Then the decontamination efforts began — an 11-day operation of scrubbing and bleaching. That was followed by electric frying pans cooking formaldehyde crystals for three days to rid the air of all toxins.

In the end, researchers concluded that the new species of Ebola was highly contagious in monkeys but not in humans. They also learned that the disease was not only found in Africa, since the monkeys had come from the Philippines. The investigators determined aerosol transmission was particularly quick in a lab setting, because the virus appeared to pass between rooms to infect susceptible monkeys.

The monkeys from Reston had an impact in Ebola research since doctors were able to study their diseased or exposed-to-disease bodies.

Hazelton was  later purchased by Covance Inc., and the labs moved out of Reston. The Reston building sat empty for several years, then was torn down in 1995. It has been a childcare center under various owners since it was rebuilt shortly after.

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