Sunday, May 3, 2009

Obama Staffer Showed Flu-like Symptoms after Mexico Trip, Tested Negative for Swine Flu

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that an administration staffer exhibited flu-like symptoms while traveling in Mexico City as part of the advance security team for Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Three members of this individual’s family tested positive for the H1N1 virus, ten days after the staffer returned home.

The administration staffer tested negative, which Gibbs said was “likely because so much time had elapsed since the onset of his own symptoms that they would not show up in the test.”

The staffer began to feel ill three days after arriving in Mexico City (on April 16) and the following day (April 17), he developed a fever.

He returned to the United States the next day (April 18), traveling on a commercial flight (United Airlines) from Mexico City to Washington, D.C. (Dulles International Airport).

Gibbs did not know the flight number and said he did not know if other passengers had been made aware of this individual but that he will check.

Gibbs reiterated that all four individuals (administration staffer, his wife and son and his nephew) experienced only “mild to moderate symptoms, received no medication, were not hospitalized, and have recovered."

He said the energy department staff has been cleared to go back to work by doctors and is back working today.

Chu and Obama -– No Symptoms, No Testing

Gibbs said Secretary Chu has not and did not experience any symptoms, and so he has not been tested and there are no plans to do so.

Gibbs said the same is true of President Obama –- he has not experienced any symptoms and his doctors see no need to conduct any tests.

The president arrived in Mexico City on April 16 and departed on April 17.

Gibbs said this individual did not come within six feet of President Obama but was at the dinner with the president on April 16 at the Museum of Anthropology. This individual never flew on Air Force One, but he did have contact with Secretary Chu.

Gibbs said he spoke to President Obama this morning and discussed with him the nature of the release of information, but he could not say what the president knew yesterday.

Gibbs said he believes that approximately 10 staffers who were on the Mexico City trip went to see White House doctors with symptoms that were flu-like but none of those people tested positive, and there is no one else that they know of experiencing symptoms.

Gibbs said that in the case of the energy department staffer, “the virus has run its course, he has recovered and is now back to work. Because it has not shown up on tests -– incubation period is over.”

Timeline from Gibbs:

April 13 – individual traveled to Mexico

April 16 – individual began to feel ill

April 17 – developed a fever

April 18 – returned to the United States on a commercial flight, United Airlines, to Washington’s Dulles Airport

April 19 - this individual visited his brother’s home where he likely spread the virus to his nephew

April 20-21 – individual went to work at the Department of Energy. A co-worker that rode in a car with him developed flu-like symptoms but subsequent test-results on that co-worker were negative.

Also in this two-day period (April 20-21), the individual’s wife and young son developed flu-like symptoms

April 24 – the individual visited his family physician and related his travel history to Mexico. The doctor did not prescribe antiviral drugs and did not perform tests on the patient.

April 25 – the individual, his wife and won visited and urgent care facility where they were administered rapid flu testing and tested negative.

April 28 – the individual’s wife, son and nephew tested probable for H1N1, after following up with Anne Arundel (MD) County health authorities. Gibbs said the subtype is “unidentifiable.”

Further testing is being done by the CDC to determine the “nature of the outcome,” Gibbs said.

-- Karen Travers and Sunlen Miller

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