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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has returned a staff member from West Africa by charter flight after the employee had low-risk contact with an international health worker who recently tested positive for Ebola. The CDC staff member worked in close proximity (within three feet) in the same room with the ill person for a prolonged period when that individual had symptoms. The returning CDC staff person is rotating back to the United States, as scheduled, from their assignment in West Africa.
According to criteria outlined in CDC’s case definition, the CDC staff member had a low-risk exposure. As stated in CDC’s interim guidance for monitoring and movement of persons who have been exposed to Ebola, people who have contact with Ebola patients can travel long distance only by private means for 21 days after the last contact. This restriction is recommended because of the possibility that symptoms could develop during travel, particularly during long flights, and to ensure that people can have timely access to appropriate medical care if symptoms develop. The charter flight was used for the returning exposed staff member in accordance with this guidance.
CDC also recommends that all travelers who have been to Sierra Leone, Guinea, or Liberia monitor their health for 21 days after returning from these countries and to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms of Ebola during this period. All CDC staff members, including persons returning by charter flight, are monitoring their health when they return from their work in the Ebola response. Health monitoring means they will check for fever twice daily and contact their doctor or health care provider immediately if they develop fever or other symptoms.
The CDC staff person is not sick with Ebola, does not show symptoms of the disease and, therefore, poses no Ebola-related risk to friends, family, co-workers, or the public.
The staff member who had contact with the infected health worker practiced good personal infection control. Ebola is not spread by persons who do not have symptoms of disease. The exposed staff person is not restricted to staying at home and could return to assigned work duties at CDC during the 21-day period of symptom monitoring.
The CDC says it is committed to ensuring the health and safety of its staff who are deployed to the outbreak response. CDC staff are trained in infection control and other safety practices before departing to outbreak-affected countries. The CDC will provide evacuation and other services to ensure the health and safety of staff as needed. Their work is vital to the international efforts to control the outbreak, which is the largest Ebola outbreak in history. While the number of CDC experts may change slightly from day to day, given staff rotations, more than 60 CDC personnel are expected to remain in West Africa continuously.