Early diagnosis of Ebola is key to stopping its spread, according to a Centers for Disease Control public health expert.

Dr. Jordan Tappero spoke at UNMC Monday about the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and the U.S. public health response. As of last week, 14,804 cases of Ebola had been recorded, with more than 10,000 deaths.

Tappero says stopping an outbreak of Ebola depends in part on identifying those at greatest risk.

“If we can identify people through contact tracking who are at the greatest risk and as soon as they become febrile, they’re very unlikely to be transmitting infection to someone else. We can get them isolated, get them in to care and increase their chances of survival as well.”

Tappero is an Omaha native and UNMC graduate. He’s the CDC’s director of the Division of Global Health Protection. Tappero spent five weeks in Liberia last fall as part of CDC efforts to help control the Ebola outbreak.

Nebraska Medical Center’s biocontainment unit treated three patients last fall who contracted Ebola in West Africa. Two survived. One patient died shortly after his arrival in the U.S. for treatment. The hospital has also monitored several American health care workers who came in contact with Ebola patients.

Ebola has a 21 day incubation period. Patients are not contagious until they become ill. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

NMC’s biocontainment unit is one of four in the U.S. that can treat Ebola patients. Tappero spoke at UNMC as part of public health week.