By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - A patient suspected of being infected with Ebola was admitted on Thursday to a special isolation unit of a University of California hospital in Sacramento and was being tested for infection, hospital and public health officials said.
The patient was transferred on Thursday morning to UC Davis Medical Center from Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, the state capital, with "symptoms consistent with Ebola infection," the medical center said in a statement.
The statement gave no further information about the case.
Sacramento County Public Health Department spokeswoman Laura McCasland was quoted as telling the Sacramento Bee newspaper: "The patient is considered low-risk and more information is being gathered."
Hospital spokeswoman Dorsey Griffith said the patient was being tested but she did not know whether the individual had traveled recently in West Africa, the epicenter of the worst Ebola epidemic on record.
Griffith declined to specify the symptoms exhibited by the person but said they were serious enough "that the patient was admitted as a suspected Ebola patient." The individual was being treated in a special Ebola isolation unit set up at the hospital, she said.
Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, suggested the patient in question may have been in West Africa's Ebola zone.
"Whenever there is a person displaying symptoms that may be Ebola, who has recently traveled to Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, certain precautions are taken, including isolating the patient, ruling out other infectious diseases and testing for Ebola if warranted," he said.
UC Davis Medical Center has been designated by state health officials as a priority hospital equipped to handle confirmed Ebola patients. The medical center remained open and was operating as normal, the hospital said.
At least 10 people are known to have been treated for Ebola in the United States, four of whom were diagnosed with the deadly disease on U.S. soil, during an epidemic that has taken at least 8,800 lives, mostly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Only two people are known to have contracted the virus in the United States - two nurses who treated an Ebola patient from Liberia who became sick while visiting in Dallas. That man, Thomas Duncan, later died.
Dozens of others tested for Ebola in the United States after showing possible signs of the disease or thought to have been exposed to the virus have turned out not to have been infected.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler, Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)