Posted on October 1, 2014

First Ebola Patient in the US Is Named After Fears for Unknown Number of Schoolchildren Exposed to Man with the Deadly Virus

Dan Bates et al., Daily Mail, October 1, 2014

The first Ebola patient in the U.S. has been named as Thomas Eric Duncan, his sister confirmed today.

Mai Wureh said that her brother told officials the first time he went to the hospital that he was visiting from Liberia.

There were fears for an unknown number of schoolchildren in Dallas, Texas today after it was revealed that a number of students were in school this week after possibly being in contact with Mr Duncan over the weekend when he had become contagious.

Authorities said on Wednesday that members of Mr Duncan’s family are among up to 18 people being monitored after exposure to the man along with the ambulance crew who transported him to hospital.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said at a hospital press conference on Wednesday that several children in Dallas came in contact with the Ebola patient, believed to be a man in his fifties, and were being kept out of school to be closely monitored.

As health officials scrambled to contain the infection, Perry said he had ‘full confidence’ in Texas medical teams when it came to the safety and welfare of citizens, adding that only those who came in close contact with the patient when he was contagious were at risk.

The man arrived in Texas from Liberia, one of the West African countries in the Ebola ‘hot zone’, on September 20.

The man is in a ‘serious but stable condition’ and has been quarantined since Sunday–although he was in the U.S. for almost a week before being isolated.

He is ‘awake, talking and asking for food’, doctors said today.

The patient showed no symptoms of the disease during his journey–which also included a stop en route in Brussels, Belgium–but began to develop signs on September 24.

He sought medical care two days later at Texas Presbyterian Hospital–where he was dismissed with antibiotics amid reports that he had not been closely questioned about his recent travel.

On September 28, the man, who believed to be married and have children, was rushed to hospital in an ambulance while vomiting and was quarantined.

It raised the frightening prospect that he was mixing freely with others for a full four days while showing symptoms of the virus–the time when Ebola is most contagious.

A team of CDC ‘disease detectives’ arrived in Dallas on Wednesday and were going door-to-door to find out who may have come in contact with the man while he was contagious with Ebola.

Dallas County Health Department was forced to deny that a second male patient was being closely monitored today after media reports.

The ambulance crew who transported the patient all tested negative for Ebola on Wednesday but have been placed in ‘reverse isolation’ at their homes for the next 21 days as a precaution.

Ambulance 37 which transported him to the hospital has been cordoned off. There are concerns after it was used to move patients for two days after the Ebola patient but hospital officials have reassured citizens that it was properly sterilized.

The man arrived in the U.S. on September 20 from the West African region, where the disease has been rapidly spreading since its outbreak last December.

While en route to the U.S., he also traveled through Brussels in Belgium, the Liberian Ministry of Information confirmed today.

There is believed to be no risk to anyone who traveled on the same flight from Liberia because he did not have any symptoms at the time. The virus is not contagious until symptoms develop and is then transmitted via bodily fluids.

Health officials are investigating the misdiagnosis and why the patient’s isolation was delayed despite his symptoms and his travel history.

A source told CNN that no one had asked the man if he had recently traveled.

The CDC recommends that all medical facilities ask patients who present with Ebola symptoms about countries they have visited.

Community leaders are also assisting medical professionals in the hunt for those who need to be tested while trying to quell panic in the local Dallas community.

Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth,
told MailOnline on Wednesday that he believed the patient was a man in his 50s.

He understood that the man had been visiting his wife or fiancée and the house he had been staying had a lot of children living there.

His identity has not been officially confirmed.

Mr Gaye said at a community meeting on Tuesday: ‘We’ve been telling people to try to stay away from social gatherings.

‘We need to know who it is so that they (family members) can all go get tested. If they are aware, they should let us know. We are very concerned about it’.

Alben Tarty, spokesman for the association, said he was keen to avoid a panic but that he wanted anyone infected to come forward. He said that the patient was a ‘family man’ and was thought to have children.

Mr Tarty said: ‘It’s scary for them’.

The patient was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and isolated on September 28. according to Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden.

The patient is reportedly not being treated with the experimental serum ZMapp–because there is none left.

Dr Frieden said there was no risk to anyone on the airplane because the patient had no symptoms at the time of the flight.

It is not clear how the patient became infected.

‘From the information that we have now, it does not appear the individual was involved in the response to Ebola, but that’s something we’ll investigate more,’ he said on Tuesday.

The man’s name or nationality have not yet been released but it is understood that he was visiting relatives in the U.S.

Asked how many people the patient may have had close contact with, the CDC Director said: ‘I think a handful is the right characterization.’

The man is not believed to have gone to any other hospitals in the area.

President Obama is aware of the patient’s Ebola diagnosis and the public health investigation, the White House said.

Dr Frieden said he believed the case also marked the first time this strain of Ebola has been diagnosed outside of West Africa.

The unidentified patient is being kept in isolation and the hospital is following Centers for Disease Control recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.

Dr Edward Goodman, epidemiologist for Texas Health Presbyterian, said the hospital had a plan for handling Ebola should a suspected case emerge and was ‘well prepared’ to provide care.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CBS DFW: ‘We have quarantined both [the ambulance crew that took the patient to the hospital] and the unit itself to make sure that nothing was there that can be spread.’

He added: ‘First and foremost, we gotta have our thoughts and prayers for this man, who is very sick and hopefully he’ll get well. But we’re gonna sure everybody else is safe at the same time.’

The patient’s symptoms and recent travel indicated a case of Ebola.

Specimens from the patient were tested by a state lab and confirmed by a separate test by the Centers for Disease Control, said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The hospital is reviewing why the patient was initially sent home with antibiotics.

Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health & Human Services, said health officials in North Texas are well equipped to care for the patient.

‘This is not Africa,’ he told Dallas station WFAA. ‘We have a great infrastructure to deal with an outbreak.’

Twelve other people in the U.S. have been tested for Ebola since July 27, according to the CDC. All of those tests were negative.

Four U.S. aid workers who became infected while volunteering in West Africa have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska.

A U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.

The U.S. has only four such isolation units. But asked whether the male patient from Liberia would be moved to one of those specialty facilities, Dr Frieden said there was no need and virtually any hospital can provide the proper care and infection control.

One of the health workers who contracted Ebola, Samaritan’s Purse Dr Kent Brantly, testified to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee about prevention methods earlier this month, The National Journal reported.

‘Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak,’ Brantly said.

‘Indeed it is a fire–it is a fire straight from the pit of hell. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will protect us from the flames of this fire.

‘Instead, we must mobilize the resources . . . to keep entire nations from being reduced to ashes.’

Just one day before the Dallas Ebola case was publicly confirmed, Bill Gates said at a breakfast meeting that countries should get ready to handle a possible outbreak of the deadly  virus as people from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea move across borders.

‘Because of that uncertainty, I am not going to hazard a guess,’ Gates said when asked whether he thinks the massive ramping up of international aid over the past few weeks is enough.

‘We are sorry to learn of the confirmed case of Ebola in Dallas,’ Samaritan’s Purse president Bruce Johnson said in a statement on Tuesday.

‘This person did exactly the right thing – report to a hospital.’

He added: ‘I am grateful for what we have available in the U.S. We have seen the success and survival rate of Americans cared for in a well-equipped medical center. We need to help share this with the people of West Africa.

‘We will be praying for the survival of this patient and that doctors will continue to learn at a quickened pace what will help fight this epidemic across West Africa.’

Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.

Ebola is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.

The New York Times reported traveling medical workers are treated with suspicion, and that they must also deal with ‘a belief that simply saying “Ebola” aloud makes the disease appear.’

Health officials use two primary guidelines when deciding whether to test a person for the virus–whether that person has traveled to West Africa and whether he or she has been near friends or relatives or other people who have been exposed to the virus, said CDC spokesman Jason McDonald.

Since the summer months, U.S. health officials have been preparing for the possibility that an individual traveler could unknowingly arrive with the infection. Health authorities have advised hospitals on how to prevent the virus from spreading within their facilities.

People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but that does not guarantee that an infected person won’t get through. Liberia is one of the three hardest-hit countries in the epidemic, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The epidemic has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa.