Warning: Ebola could mutate and become airborne

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond addresses the Defeating Ebola conference in central London today
The conference will hear from a group of NGOs working in West Africa, which will call on the international community to develop a six point plan to tackle the epidemic. Pictured is Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

School administrators urged calm as none of the children have shown symptoms and are being monitored at home, where they will likely remain for three weeks.

Four members of Mr Duncan’s family have been legally ordered to stay home as a precaution even though they are not showing symptoms, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement on Thursday. Violating the order could result in criminal charges.

However, his quarantined girlfriend Louise, said she has not been told what to do with Mr Duncan’s sweat-soaked bedclothes which remain in her home.

Victim: This week the first case of Ebola on U.S. soil was diagnosed after Thomas Eric Duncan (pictured) flew into Dallas, Texas from Liberia

She told CNN that she has been legally ordered to stay inside her Dallas apartment with her 13-year-old child and two nephews, who are both in their twenties, as they came in direct contact with the patient while he was contagious.

None of the four people quarantined are showing Ebola symptoms but Louise, who works as a home help, has been taking the group’s temperature every hour.

The CDC has not told the mother what to do with Mr Duncan’s sweat-soaked sheets and pillows which remain in the home. She has placed the towels he used in plastic bags and cleaned up with bleach.

The U.S. Department of health has confirmed that a patient in Honolulu, Hawaii, has been placed in isolation with suspected ebola.

The unnamed patient, who is being treated at the Queen’s Medical Centre, has not yet been tested for the disease, but is displaying some symptoms.

Experts from the WHO and Imperial College, London, predict numbers will continue to climb and more than 20,000 people will have been infected by early next month.

So far, around 6,500 cases have been officially recorded, though the number of victims is thought to be under reported.

However, fears the disease may become airborne are not new.

Last month in a piece for the New York Times, Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said experts are loathe to discuss their concerns in public, for fear of whipping up hysteria.

Discussing the possible future course of the current outbreak, he warned: ‘The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air.’

Dr Osterholm warned viruses similar to Ebola are notorious for replicating and reinventing themselves.