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This photo provided by the CDC shows an ebola virus.
This photo provided by the CDC shows an ebola virus.

Ebola symptoms emerged after U.S. doctor and aide returned home Add to ...

The family of a Texas doctor who contracted the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa had travelled back to the United States before he showed symptoms and was not at risk of getting or spreading the disease, U.S. health officials said on Monday.

Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, is one of two American relief workers to test positive for the highly contagious virus that has killed 672 people across the region in the largest-ever Ebola outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

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He was treating Ebola patients in Monrovia, Liberia, in his role as medical director for a case-management centre run by North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, a relief organization headed by evangelist Franklin Graham. A vice-president of the organization on Sunday said Dr. Brantly was in very serious condition.

Photos of Dr. Brantly working in Liberia show him in white coveralls made of a synthetic material that he wore for hours a day while treating Ebola patients.

The organization said a missionary from Charlotte, N.C., was also in isolation receiving treatment after testing positive for Ebola.

Nancy Writebol had helped disinfect the protective suits worn by medical workers inside the isolation ward at the centre in Monrovia, said Rachael Mills, a Samaritan’s Purse spokeswoman.

Ms. Mills did not have details on Monday about the conditions of Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol. Both, she said, had worked in Liberia since 2013.

“It’s just really amazing that people like Dr. Brantly and Ms. Nancy raise their hands and go and risk their lives to assist these people,” Ms. Mills said.

Health officials said Dr. Brantly’s wife and two young children returned to Abilene, Tex., before he displayed signs of the disease, which is not contagious until symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding occur.

The family members have not shown any symptoms and their blood tests have been negative for Ebola, said doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Tex., where Dr. Brantly did his residency.

The family is on a 21-day fever watch “out of an abundance of caution,” said Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

Ms. Writebol’s husband, also a missionary, is devastated by her diagnosis, said the couple’s pastor in Charlotte. The fatality rate of the current outbreak is about 60 per cent.

“She’s not doing well,” Calvary Church senior pastor John Munro said in The Charlotte Observer. “It’s grim news.”

No Ebola cases have been reported in the U.S. President Barack Obama is getting updates on the outbreak, and the CDC said it was alerting U.S. health-care providers to watch for signs of the virus.

“The likelihood of this outbreak outside of West Africa is very low,” Dr. Monroe of the CDC said. But he added that the “CDC needs to be prepared for the remote possibility about someone bringing it here.”

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