Patient Evaluated For Potential Ebola Virus At Duke Hospital

Results of tests expected to be known Monday

TO: Duke University Faculty, Staff and Students

FROM; William J. Fulkerson, Jr., MD, Executive Vice President, DUHSThomas Owens, MD, Chief Medical Officer, DUHSKyle Cavanaugh, Vice President for Administration, Duke University

RE: Patient evaluated for potential Ebola virus at Duke University Hospital

We wanted to share with you that a patient has been admitted to Duke University Hospital for further evaluation and testing for potential Ebola virus infection.  We expect to know the results of the Ebola test for this patient from North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services by sometime Monday morning.  

Despite not knowing the patient’s Ebola status, we are approaching this as though it was a confirmed case.  Therefore, the patient is being cared for in the same contained, isolated and secured unit within DUH in which an actual Ebola patient would be treated.   The patient is receiving care from a seasoned team of Duke clinical professionals who volunteered for this service and have trained extensively for this possibility.  We have anticipated this scenario for several weeks now, and a plan to manage it is in place.

We understand the concerns you may have in hearing this news but want to reiterate that at this point the patient is being tested for Ebola virus.  We also want to review with you again some facts that we hope will be helpful in answering your questions as well as those of our patients and visitors.

Of primary importance is understanding that the risk of exposure or transmission of the virus to any patients, visitors, employees or healthcare professionals within Duke University Hospital is extremely low and highly unlikely.  You’ll recall from previous communications that Ebola can only be transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of a patient with the virus.  Ebola is not spread through airborne transmission like the flu or a cold.  With the patient in a completely contained and isolated unit and specialized infection prevention and protection protocols in place, we are confident we can successfully care for this patient while preventing exposure of others to the virus.

We are encouraged by the fact that to date there are no reported cases in the U.S. of transmission of Ebola to patients, visitors or family in the hospitals in which Ebola patients were being treated, or among the family members and acquaintances of the patients themselves.

The team treating the patient has undergone extensive training on the use of personal protective equipment with our infectious disease team and our colleagues in Duke’s biosafety level 3 lab.  This lab has successfully conducted research for many years on several serious and highly contagious viruses without any exposure or transmission events.

In addition, our world class infectious disease team is in continuous contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health departments and will, therefore, be able to monitor in real time any new information related to the virus or care for Ebola patients.

It’s also important to recognize this patient’s rights to confidentiality and would remind us all to adhere to all of our privacy policies and procedures.  

We are committed to keeping you updated as information becomes available.  A dedicated website has been created to provide ongoing updates and other information, and we would encourage you to use the response function on the site to let us know if you have any questions.