In recent news, an American was diagnosed with Ebola. Before this news break, ebola was something that many people were afraid of, but because of the distance, no one was too worried about it.
Apparently a man had flown from Liberia this past month, unknowingly bringing ebola into the States. The unidentified man was said to have flown in on the 19th of September and was not diagnosed until the 30th. The disease does not present symptoms until around the fourth day. It was reported that the man went into a hospital to seek treatment for symptoms on the 26th of September but was sent home. It is unclear on what happened when he went in for treatment, but the bottom line is that he was sent home, only to return a couple days later to be fully diagnosed with ebola.
According to the article in The Washington Post, the CDC is working on implementing protocols for testing for infections--such as ebola-- as well as infection control measures. Many of these protocols are supposed to already be in place in many hospitals.
So how could they have missed something like this? When a patient comes in with symptoms, no matter what they are, there are tests that are supposed to be performed to rule out all reaonable possibilities, sometimes called a differential diagnosis. One of the ways that is done is by taking a history - in this case, asking whether the patient had been in Africa would have raised suspicion of the ebola virus. There are some reports on what happened on his initial visit, but it seems like, without asking the right questions, it would have been considered the flu, since the symptoms are somewhat similar to those of the flu.
Formulating a differential diagnosis is especially critical when one of the potential causes is life threatening and contagious.
For more information on this story as it unfolds, click here.