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US doctor exposed to Ebola admitted to NIH

WASHINGTON — An American doctor who was exposed to the Ebola virus while volunteering in Sierra Leone has been admitted for observation at the National Institutes of Health near the nation’s capital.

NIH confirmed in a news release on its website that the physician arrived Sunday.

NIH had said previously that out of ‘‘an abundance of caution,’’ the physician is being admitted to a special isolation unit in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH’s infectious disease chief, would not discuss details about the patient but said that in general, an exposure to Ebola does not necessarily mean someone will become sick.

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‘‘When someone is exposed, you want to put them into the best possible situation so if something happens you can take care of them,’’ Fauci said.

The action was being taken ‘‘out of an abundance of caution,’’ the NIH said, adding that it ‘‘is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our patients, NIH staff, and the public.’’

The NIH did not release the doctor’s name or any more information about his or her condition.

Four other Americans aid workers who were infected with Ebola while volunteering in the West African outbreak have been treated at hospitals in Georgia and Nebraska. One remains hospitalized while the others have recovered.

Earlier this week, Richard Sacra, a missionary doctor from Holden, Mass., who was working in Liberia, was released from the Nebraska Medical Center after contracting the virus.

Two other Americans have been discharged after they were successfully treated in the United States for Ebola, including another doctor, Kent Brantly, who later donated a unit of blood, or convalescent serum, to Sacra.

As of Friday, 3,083 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have been attributed to the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

The CDC has warned that the virus could potentially infect 1.4 million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January. And a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine said that the virus could become endemic in the hardest hit countries in West Africa.

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The United States has launched a $750 million effort to create treatment facilities in Liberia. And earlier this month, the UN Security Council voted to create an emergency medical mission to help stem the outbreak.

Also this month, the Liberian government, the WHO, and nonprofit partners are getting ready to start a program to move infected people out of their homes and into ad hoc centers in an effort to try to stem the spread of the dis-ease.