Alumna fights to prevent spread of Ebola in the U.S.

A GW alumna is one of the top investigators trying to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States.

Lauren Epstein, who graduated from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences with a doctorate in 2007 after earning an undergraduate degree in biology in 2003, is part of a crisis team in Dallas.

She’s a member of the epidemic intelligence service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to her LinkedIn page. That group is in Texas attempting to identify people who may have been exposed to Ebola while working with a patient who died from the virus last week.

Epstein is interviewing and testing members of the staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the nation, Thomas Eric Duncan, was treated.

Officials confirmed Sunday that the virus has since spread to at least one woman, the first case of the disease spreading in the country.

Each member of the staff who could have been exposed is having their temperature checked twice a day and is under close observation for other symptoms of the virus.

“There’s a lot of pressure from everybody who is watching,” Epstein told The Dallas Morning News. “It’s definitely more intense than my other investigations.”

The hospital is under scrutiny after records showed that it initially sent Duncan home even after learning he had recently returned from a trip to West Africa.

More than 8,000 cases of Ebola worldwide have been confirmed and more than 4,000 people have died from the virus, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

A patient at Howard University Hospital last week showed symptoms, but tests came back negative. GW Hospital also evaluated a patient for Ebola last week and determined he had the flu, according to a statement from the hospital.

University President Steven Knapp said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday that GW is encouraging students and faculty to get a flu shot since the symptoms of the seasonal illness are similar to those of Ebola.

“The symptoms of Ebola and the flu are initially indistinguishable,” Knapp said. “Obviously, the outcomes are quite a bit worse.”

Knapp added that the University and GW Hospital are “developing all the necessary protocols.”

GW Hospital spokeswoman Wendy Adkins did not return multiple requests for comment about the hospital’s preparations to respond to Ebola.

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