(RxWiki News) A health worker who might have come into contact with lab samples from an Ebola patient boarded a cruise ship last Sunday. Now the worker and a traveling partner are in voluntary isolation in a cabin of the ship, which is outside of Belize.
Update (10/19/2014): The Associated Press (AP) reports that the Dallas health worker on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship has tested negative for Ebola. The ship returned to port in Galveston, Texas over the weekend.
The unidentified worker did not have direct contact with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with the virus in the US. However, she might have come into contact with a lab sample from him, reports CNN.
It is unclear whether the health worker has shown any symptoms at any point on the cruise, but a doctor on the ship says the worker is now in good health and not showing symptoms.
Ebola can cause Ebola virus disease. This often fatal disease is marked by symptoms like high fever, nausea, vomiting and unexplained bleeding — and it's only contagious when patients show symptoms. It has an incubation period of up to 21 days. That means that a patient who doesn't show symptoms within 21 days of coming into contact with the virus is not likely to have the disease.
The patient on the cruise ship made possible contact with the virus 19 days ago.
Two other nurses who treated Duncan and wore protective gear while doing so have contracted Ebola. This has raised some fears that the virus might have changed they way it infects people — from only being able to transfer through contact with infected body fluids to becoming airborne like the flu.
This change in transmission route is highly unlikely, if not impossible, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. In known history, no human virus has ever changed its mode of transmission, the Wall Street Journal reports.
If the patient on the cruise ship had contracted Ebola and was showing symptoms, the only way he or she could have infected other passengers is if those passengers came into contact with his or her bodily fluids, such as blood or saliva.