The climate of fear about the Ebola virus focused on Cobb County on Friday, after a jail inmate there was tested for the disease....

The climate of fear about the Ebola virus focused on Cobb County on Friday, after a jail inmate there was tested for the disease.

But Ebola tests have come back negative for the inmate, health officials said.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Earlier Friday, Cobb jail officials told Atlanta’s WSB-TV that they were no longer accepting inmates after one showed flu-like symptoms.

The inmate told jail officials that he had recently traveled to Africa. The disease, which was first identified in West Africa in the 1970s, has recently flared up and spread rapidly there, killing 3,400 people.

The man was arrested overnight on DUI and other traffic charges. He was treated at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said at a Friday afternoon news conference in Marietta that after the man’s initial Ebola tests, “so far, absolutely all his lab work is negative and normal.”

“We have absolutely no reason to believe this patient has Ebola,’’ Fitzgerald said. But she added that the results of one remaining test had not arrived.

Late Friday evening, though, Public Health announced that lab testing performed by the CDC confirmed that the patient is not infected with Ebola.

Fitzgerald commended Cobb public health officials, ambulance drivers, Kennestone staff, and jail officials for their response to the situation.

The patient was immediately isolated at the jail, and is currently isolated at WellStar Kennestone, she said.

“Today we had an opportunity to see how exactly our protocols are working,’’ Fitzgerald said. “They worked perfectly.”

The scare in Cobb County follows Tuesday’s confirmation by the CDC that a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas was the first person to be diagnosed in the United States with the Ebola virus.

(In the past two months, a handful of people already infected have been brought to the United States for treatment. The first two, who were taken to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta in early August, have already been successfully treated and released.)

Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient in Dallas, left the West African nation of Liberia on Sept. 19 and arrived in Texas the following day.

On Sept. 26, he sought treatment at the hospital after becoming ill, but was given a prescription for antibiotics and sent back to the apartment complex where he was staying.

Two days later, he was admitted to the hospital with more critical symptoms, after requiring an ambulance ride.

140px-US_CDC_logo.svgA team from the CDC arrived in Dallas after news of the diagnosis broke. The CDC and Dallas County are working together in what they call a contact investigation.

The Associated Press reported that a hazardous-materials crew arrived Friday at the Texas apartment where Duncan stayed to collect bed sheets and towels used by the infected man before he was hospitalized.

Elsewhere, NBC News reported that an American freelance cameraman working for the network in Liberia has tested positive for the virus and would be flown back to the U.S., along with the rest of the news crew.

Also Friday, Texas health officials said they had narrowed the group of people they were monitoring from as many as 100 to about 50 people who had some type of exposure to Duncan.

The virus that causes Ebola is not spread through the air. It is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids – blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen – of an infected person who is already showing symptoms. Those fluids must also have an entry point.

The disease is not contagious until symptoms begin. Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.

Experts have pointed out that the West African nations where the disease is now raging have very ineffective public health systems due to years of poverty and war.

Howard University hospital in Washington, D.C., confirmed Friday that it has admitted a patient — a recent traveler to Nigeria — who has symptoms that could be associated with Ebola.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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