WASHINGTON - A Texas health-care worker who had treated an Ebola victim who died on Wednesday has tested positive for the deadly tropical fever, dealing a blow to the worldwide battle to stem the outbreak.
If preliminary test results are confirmed, the patient would be the second person diagnosed with the illness and apparently the first to contract it on United States soil, a day after US airports began screening travellers from epidemic-hit West Africa.
"We knew a second case could be a reality and we've been preparing for this possibility," said David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. "We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread."
The health-care worker from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas reported a low-grade fever on Friday night, and was isolated and referred for testing, Texas health services said in a statement early yesterday.
They did not giver further details about the worker or how exposure to the virus occurred.
The hospital had treated Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who died on Wednesday. Mr Duncan was believed to have been infected with Ebola before he left Liberia and boarded a plane to visit family in Texas.
More than 4,000 people have died of Ebola in seven countries since the start of the year, said the World Health Organisation.
The latest Texas case underlines United Nations fears and growing concerns in the US about Ebola, for which there is no vaccine or widely available treatment.
"The virus is far ahead of us and every day the situation gets worse," Anthony Banbury, the head of the UN's emergency Ebola mission, told UN leaders after a tour of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the nations worst affected by the worst-ever outbreak of the disease.
Passengers from the three countries arriving at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York will have their temperatures taken and be screened for signs of illness and answer questions about possible exposure, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
Four other major US airports are to start similar checks this week.
The CDC predicted that the number of cases globally could increase in a worst-case scenario to 1.4 million by January, unless strong measures are taken to contain the disease.
In Spain, attention remained focused on 44-year-old Teresa Romero, the Madrid nurse who became the first person to get infected with Ebola outside Africa.
Her condition had "improved in the night. She is conscious and talks from time to time when she is in a good mood", a hospital source told AFP.
Ms Romero's brother said that his sister was improving.
"She no longer has a fever - it appears that, while remaining seriously ill, she's getting better and moving forward. She's still in a serious but stable condition and this gives us hope," Mr Jose-Ramon Romero told private TV channel La Sexta.
She is thought to have contracted the disease last month in a Madrid hospital, caring for a Spanish missionary who died last month after being infected in Africa.