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City health officials said Monday that Boston has seen three or four possible cases of Ebola since the latest outbreak began ravaging West Africa, but they stressed that the city has had no confirmed cases.
Dr. Anita Barry, head of the Infectious Disease Bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission, said all possible cases of the deadly virus turned out to be other illnesses, including malaria, typhoid fever and others typical of West Africa.
But she acknowledged it is possible the city might eventually see a confirmed case of the virus, which has had a roughly 50 percent mortality rate in West Africa.
"We have an international airport," Barry said. "We can have anything in this city."
The briefing comes after a medical center in Braintree, a Boston suburb, was briefly shut down Sunday after a patient who had been to the West African nation of Liberia complained of a headache and muscle aches.
The patient, who has not been identified, remains in isolation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, but officials have said they don't believe the patient has contracted Ebola.
Symptoms include a fever, flu-like body aches and abdominal pain, and then vomiting and diarrhea.
The bulk of Barry's remarks Monday focused on the city's protocol for identifying and managing suspected cases of Ebola.
She also talked about steps the city has taken to educate and protect residents, including working with local community groups that do outreach with West African immigrants.
But Barry declined to comment on specific or ongoing cases, including Sunday's incident in Braintree and one at Logan International Airport on Monday afternoon in which a hazardous materials crew responded to a United Arab Emirates flight from Dubai. Some passengers on the plane were showing flu-like symptoms.
The city public health commission said later the airline passengers didn't meet the criteria for any infections of public health concern.
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