Man quarantined for Ebola exposure returns to Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Thursday, the world met Dr. Patrick LaRochelle, the man quarantined at UNMC in Omaha last December for Ebola exposure.

LaRochelle came into contact with the virus in the Congo, where he and his wife were working at local hospital in a village in the eastern part of the country.

The World Health Organization reported earlier this month that there are nearly 1,800 confirmed cases of Ebola in the Congo and more than 1,200 deaths.

Anna LaRochelle, a registered nurse, spoke about the moment she found out her husband had been exposed.

"This is the thing we had always hoped against, but had almost forgotten to hope against, because life had become so normal,” she said.

The LaRochelles had been living in the Congo with their two children a few years before the Ebola outbreak hit the country last year.

Dr. LaRochelle said he was doing a routine checkup when he was exposed.

"I was planning on taking a quick listen, just to make sure everything was stable," he said. "And so, instinctively, I just grabbed my stethoscope."

The patient later died from Ebola, which set off alarm bells for LaRochelle.

"Being within a meter of an Ebola patient in the last 24 hours of their life is considered a high-risk exposure — and I touched a patient in their last two hours,” he said.

The decision was made to evacuate the doctor to the United States.

He was quarantined for two weeks at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, a facility familiar with controlling the disease: During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, a few patients had been brought there.

Today, there is concern about the virus spreading and becoming a potential threat in the United States.

It's getting into "countries that are nearby that have a lot more travel to the United States than the Democratic Republic of the United States, so Uganda, Rwanda," said Shelly Schwedhelm, executive director of Emergency Management and Biopreparedness at UNMC.

This would likely mean travelers in targeted countries would have to start being screened.

"That may very well be forthcoming soon," Schwedhelm said.

Dr. LaRochelle and his family were back in the Congo just a few weeks after his release.

"When we arrived, and they were so grateful we had come back, it just reinforced it's what we should be doing," he said.