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U.S. CDC says flies home staffer who had 'low-risk' contact with Ebola

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday it flew an employee back to the United States from West Africa by chartered plane after the staff member came in contact with an international healthcare worker who later tested positive for Ebola.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the employee was "feeling fine" and had been scheduled to return to the United States from West Africa anyway.

The staffer's exposure was "low-risk", the CDC said in a statement. According to the statement, the staff member worked in "close proximity", which it defined as within three feet, and in the same room with the ill person for a prolonged period during the period that that individual had symptoms.

The CDC transported the staff member via chartered plane because its regulations require that people who have contact with Ebola patients who travel long distances must travel by private means for 21 days after the last contact, the statement said. The provision is designed to protect other travelers in case the exposed person develops symptoms during the flight, it said.

According to the World Health Organization, Ebola spreads through direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and through indirect contact with contaminated surfaces.

According to the CDC statement, the staff person is not sick with Ebola, does not show symptoms of the disease and "poses no Ebola-related risk to friends, family, co-workers or the public".

At least 1,427 people have died and 2,615 have been infected since Ebola was detected in Guinea in March. The outbreak has killed at least 120 healthcare workers.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Chris Reese and Sonya Hepinstall)

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